Good Management Makes Good Standups, Even Remotely


Effective management doesn’t assign meetings unless they are accomplishing a paramount function and without purpose, additionally, they don’t take place by mishap.

Without a clear function, program, and timespan, time escapes without a noticeable outcome. According to Doodle's 2019 State of Meetings report, bad meetings are costing businesses money and worker’s time. Here are some numbers to prove it:

Meetings which are organized poorly, will cost United States business $399 billion in 2019 and over $400 billion in 2020.

  • 44% reported that poorly organized meetings mean they do not have enough time to do the rest of their work.
  • 43% stated that unclear actions result in confusion.
  • 31% reported that irrelevant guests slowed progress.
  • 71% said they wasted time weekly to unnecessary or canceled meetings.

Remote Standups

Online meeting graphic

Stand-up meetings, on-site or remote, are a crucial tool to keep the development team well-communicated and in sync. The idea behind a daily stand-up is to give the whole development team an opportunity to see what has been happening in the development timebox since the previous stand-up, what is planned to be done before the next stand-up, and to state any problems that they may be having.

Here are the three basic questions that typically guide standups:

  • What did you get done the other day (or last week, last month, etc.)?
  • What are you working on now?
  • What isn't working out, what is blocking you, and what could you use assistance on?

This is an excellent start, but if you're going to convene as a group, respect the attendees by spending a couple of minutes preparing an agenda. Here are a few things to remember:

Appoint a meeting leader:

stand up meeting graphic

Only address subjects that impact everybody that is a part of the meeting at hand. Set objectives ahead of time. One goal may be to share important service metrics. Another might be to get status updates from the group. An agenda can be a list of questions. Do not default to talking when listening would be much better.

It's exceptionally crucial that standups remain short:

In remote work settings, individuals normally aren't standing, so there is a temptation to settle in for a long conversation. If you get stuck on a subject, remember that it likely doesn't impact the whole group. It's finest to conclude on time and let individuals follow up with each other as needed.

The conventional "stand-up" questions can help guide the agenda for the week:

sprint planning on blocks

Through experimentation, it can be changed-up to make the stand-ups much more of a planning and support tool than an "inform us of what you're doing" tool. On Mondays, an organization can ask these questions:

  • What did you achieve last week?
  • What do you require to complete today, no matter what?
  • What barriers or issues might prevent you from getting that done this week?

And on Tuesdays through Friday the questions can be modified:

  • What did you achieve yesterday?
  • What is on your plate today to support this week's goal?
  • Do you feel that you will reach today's objective? If not, what barriers or problems might avoid you from getting it done?

In theory, by adding these additional questions which quite simply, is basically noting out the things we do, these questions permit us to tell each other if something took place that distracted us from the work we wanted to do, which assists us to fix those problems as they show up.  

Summary

It is crucial to have an agenda and participation. Here are some other key factors in a successful remote stand-up meeting.

  • Use a standard set of Q&As
  • Share updates

Make sure that updates discussed at the stand-up meeting are shared with the entire team. People may be out sick or have missed the meeting due to a conflict, and it’s important they understand what was discussed in order to stay aligned.

  • Every meeting needs participants otherwise it can be called a lecture.

Ultimately, the success of any stand-up meeting depends on team participation. If you can’t get people to engage, most of the value is lost.

The entire purpose of stand-up meetings is to hear from and communicate with all members of the team.  Communication is even more important for software teams, (including developers, designers, quality engineers and product managers)

  • Keep the meeting under 15 minutes.

A stand-up meeting, whether in-person or online/virtual, shouldn’t be longer than this. If the meetings go longer than 15 minutes, it ultimately indicates that your team is not well prepared, their updates are not clear, or you are discussing items in too much depth.

The main aim of a stand-up meeting is to distribute relevant and important information and/or to make quick decisions. They are also used to make major strategic decisions and above all, they offer a chance to “go around the room” and get everyone to present their results from the day before.


Read more of Promenade Software’s blog posts on project management and follow us on LinkedIn for weekly posts and industry updates.

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Roxana Greenman, PhD

Roxana is a Senior Project Manager for Promenade Software.  She has over 19 years of experience leading projects and teams, managing schedules, budgets and clients. Having worked for NASA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as well as small technology focused businesses, her background encompasses a broad spectrum of projects and clients.

Roxana holds a PhD in  Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Stanford University.

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