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It’s time to kill the daily stand-up meeting

Daily stand-up meetings might be the quickest way to waste your time as a leader. Here’s why a daily stand-up meeting doesn’t work and what to do instead.

Daily stand-up meeting

“Is this daily stand-up meeting over yet?”

The meeting is only 8 minutes in and no one has uttered those words outright…. but they don’t need to. Each of your team members’ faces is blank. Mouths are moving, shaping the words, “what I worked on” and “what my blockers are,” but no one is truly listening.

This is the reality of daily stand-up meetings. And it might be your reality as a manager.

As a manager, you’ve likely witnessed this first hand. Your daily stand-up meetings have become bloated and unengaging, the more time passes and the bigger your team grows.

Should you be doing something different? And if so, what?

Based on the research we’ve collected amongst the 15,000+ managers and employees who use Know Your Team, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

The time to kill the daily stand-up meeting has come. Here’s exactly why and what we should do instead…

Why a daily stand-up meeting doesn’t work

Many oars, too many directions

The original intention behind a daily stand-up meeting is extremely sound. Popularized by the Agile methodology of project management, daily stand-up meetings are meant to share progress and identify any blockers the team is facing. For the few teams who strictly adhere to only sharing status updates and blockers, a daily stand-up can serve them well.

However, for most of us in practice, it’s a different story. We get overly excited and cram other intentions into our daily stand-ups: We want them to be an energizing morale booster for the team, a time to reflect on what went well, an opportunity for team members who don’t regularly talk to each other to feel connected… Woah, woah, woah. No wonder daily stand-up meetings start to run over, with folks rambling, and people disengaging.

The best meetings are laser-focused focused on either (1) sharing information (2) making decisions or (3) building rapport. Try to do all three at the same time, and you end up having too many oars, rowing in too many directions. A bloated, ineffective meeting manifests.

20 hours down the drain per week

Say you are able to miraculously, consistently hold 10 – 15 minute daily stand-up meetings with your team. “Great!” you think to yourself. “That doesn’t feel like a lot of time.” As you switch gears to dig back into your work, what you don’t realize is a study from the University of California Irvine revealed that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task at hand.

This means the time a team member needs to recoup from the daily stand-up is longer than the daily stand-up meeting itself. That’s an irreversible 25 minutes taken away from every single one of your team members every week. So if you have 10 team members, that’s 20 hours poured down the drain. Is the cost of the interruption worth it?

Lack of recorded history

Someone calls in sick and can’t make the daily stand-up meeting. A remote employee can’t participate in the daily stand-up because it’s 1AM their local time when it’s 9AM for the rest of the team. How do you ensure that everyone is on the same page, especially as your team grows and becomes more spread out? With daily stand-up meetings being in-person or over Zoom, you lack a shared recorded history of the progress being made.

This particularly becomes apparent when someone new joins the team. You’d love to be able to share the week-to-week progress the team has made to give them full context on a project… But with daily stand-ups meetings, that history is scattered in a series of haphazard notes at best and doesn’t provide the new hire a complete picture.

So what to do instead?

There are a few options for either replacing your daily stand-up meeting and/or alternatives to holding them…

Automate status updates with a tool.

Status updates are a critical part of ensuring everyone on the team is on the same page. But they don’t need to happen during an in-person daily stand-up meeting. (Remember the 20 hours down the drain!)

Instead, you can ask folks to take 30 seconds to write a few bullet points on what they worked on yesterday, what they plan to work on today, and any blockers they have. They can answer on their own time when it makes sense for them – and it doesn’t interrupt their workflow.

Here at Know Your Team, we use our own tool internally for this. It’s called the Heartbeat Check-in. It sends an email or Slack message every day asking, “What are you working on today?” I take a minute to fill out and find that, personally, it helps me orient my day without pulling my attention away from the work itself.

You can customize the Heartbeat Check-in questions to be more specifically geared toward your team (e.g., “What’s something that might be blocking you today?”) and change the frequency to be as often as you’d like. With the Heartbeat Check-in, you also have a complete recorded history of everyone’s progress over time.

Use a monthly all-hands or weekly staff meeting to focus on other functions.

You’ve likely realized that, although well-intended, you have too many varying purposes for your original daily stand-up meeting (e.g., you wanted to align the team around a vision and help build rapport in the team). Decide what specific functions are most important in your team to foster, and then devote other meetings, processes, or tools to fulfilling these functions.

For example, here are functions you could incorporate into a monthly all-hands meeting or weekly staff meeting…

  • Reflection: Use a weekly staff meeting to encourage shared reflection about what could be better. For example, you could pose the question, “Knowing what we know now, what would you change about how we approached this project?”
  • Recognition: Take time during a monthly all-hands meeting to highlight positive progress that’s been made. You could ask, for instance, “What’s something you’ve been surprised or encouraged to see us accomplish?” or “When is a moment you’ve felt proud of working at XXX, and why?”
  • Connection: Carve out some time during the all-hands or staff meeting to enable people to connect with what they enjoy most about working on the team. You could ask fun non-work related questions like, “What’s the thing you bought with your own money?” or “Who’s the most famous person you’ve met?”
  • Vision: Use an all-hands meeting to align folks in your team around vision and how each team member contributes to that vision. For example, you could ask your team: “If someone were to ask you what the vision of our company is, would a clear answer come to mind? How do you feel your individual work is contributing to that vision?”

Here are some other suggestions for what to put on your all-hands team meeting agenda, if you were curious.

Naturally, there is no one right way to share progress in your team – and you’ll know best what is going to work for your team.

But least of all, I hope you don’t carry on with daily stand-up meetings merely because you’re “already doing it”. The best process results from what is deliberate and thoughtful – not what is convenient and familiar.

Daily stand-up meetings are an antiquated relic. It’s time to sunset them.

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Additionally, we are giving away our Guide to Managing Remote Teams – 60+ pages completely for free. Based on data we collected from 297 remote managers and employees, our CEO, Claire Lew, wrote 11 chapters of best practices on how to manage a remote team. 

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Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.