The Daily Stand-up: it’s time to ditch it 

The daily stand-up has been the talk of the town in recent years. Seeing the buzz around it, you might have the fomo (fear of missing out) feeling if you haven’t heard about it before. Words of wisdom: Daily stand-up meetings might be the quickest way to waste your time as a leader. Here’s why this meeting doesn’t work and what to do instead.

Why a daily stand-up meeting doesn’t work

The original intention behind a daily stand-up meeting is exceptionally 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, it’s a different story for most of us in practice. 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…. No wonder daily stand-up meetings start to run over, with folks rambling and people disengaging. The best meetings focus on sharing information, making decisions, or building rapport. Try to do all three simultaneously, and you end up having too many oars, and rowing in too many directions. A bloated, ineffective meeting manifests.

20 hours down the drain per week

Say you can 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.” Is the cost of the interruption worth it? A study by the University of California, Irvine, found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after being interrupted. 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.

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 1 AM their local time when it’s 9 AM for the rest of the team. How do you ensure 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 Teams, you need a shared recorded history of progress. 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-up meetings, that history is scattered in a series of random notes at best and doesn’t provide the new hire a complete picture.

So what to do instead?

Automate status updates with a tool

Status updates are critical to 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. You can use MS Teams, Slack, and Sharepoint; the automated status update is easy to organize.

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 on this project, 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 the vision and how each team member contributes to that vision. For example, you could ask your team: “If someone were to ask you what our company’s vision is, would a clear answer come to mind? How do you feel your work is contributing to that vision?”

Naturally, there is no one right way to share progress in your team – and you’ll know best what will work for your team. But least of all, I hope you don’t continue 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.