Should startup teams do daily standups?

WHAT IS A STANDUP ANYWAY? 

A common ritual in software and startup teams is a daily, or weekly standup, huddle or scrum or whatever you wish to call it. It generally means the team (part or whole) has a designated time to all stand-up and communicate. 

Dev teams, particularly those working with agile principles already commonly use this form of communication. Usually, it consists of the team quite literally “standing up” and individually going through (in top-level detail) what they have been and are working on and whether they have any blockers or need any help. This keeps everyone on the same page, informed of any urgencies and to update the team on progress.

For example, at BugHerd we are a cross-functional team of 8-15 in the office at any given time. We have an all-hands standup (product, devs, design, marketing etc) at 10 am each day for 5-15 minutes. The individual teams conduct their own weekly version also. 

We are currently at the company size (and growing) where we have to ask questions such as: 

  • “Should everyone join the standup each day?” 
  • “How do we keep communication effective, with or without standups?” 
  • “Does the Dev team (for example) need to hear each day about tasks that do not directly affect them?” 
  • “Are standups improving or impairing team culture?”

To help decide whether to implement (or trash) your own standups, or simply ensure they aren’t a waste of time. Here are some considerations…


A STRUCTURED (& BRIEF) STANDUP

It’s not that hard to commit 10-15 minutes of each day to get everyone on the same page.

However, when people start to ramble about personal lives (usually Monday) it can challenge the brevity of the update. This can lead to frustration in others wanting to get back to their work and can cause a rub. 

A common gripe of standups from Developers who dislike workflow interruptions.

Generally speaking, each person should cover: 

  • Status updates
  • What they’re working on today
  • Blockers and challenges (what they need help with)

Whether this is going around the room one by one, or going through each status on a taskboard. It could be team by team, or passing around a speaking stick (yes that’s a thing). Keeping the structure of the conversation pointed and brief can lead to clarity and less nuisance. 

A great way to ensure the structure is kept in place is to appoint one person to lead the standup conversation. They should moderate accordingly (i.e. tell people to stop gasbagging).

WHAT IS THE GOAL OF STANDUP? 

Simply providing information to each other to stay on the same page might be the goal of standup, and that’s cool. You might be having a daily update for other reasons though which could be: 

  • Work on a particular project together
  • Prioritise tasks amongst the team
  • Provide visibility across projects
  • Discuss the birth of the CEO’s baby

It can literally be anything you want. Ensuring everyone knows what that specific goal is will coordinate efforts, synchronise the team and lead to better collective understanding.

CAN STANDUP BE DONE DIGITALLY? 

Yup! In fact, we’ve started moving some of our catch-ups to be a quick few dot points in a slack channel from each person. This usually occurs when we are on a lean team for the day or most of us are remote. Or if we collectively agree that there aren’t too many updates or new blockers from the previous day 

We find Slack the most efficient tool for our remote standups. It’s where most of our day to day comms lie, tools like Standuply and Trello are also useful for scheduling, tracking notes and staying collaborative.  

CAN STANDUP ADD TO TEAM CULTURE? 

Standups can go a long way for making sure employees that work remotely are seen, heard and part of the team. Video conferencing and screen sharing capabilities make it easy! 

They give everyone a chance to talk, raise issues and (hopefully) be listened to. Standups can further increase communication by providing accountability and the opportunity to regularly follow-up with each other. 

There can potentially be a negative impact on team culture if people are regularly late. Or if people talk over and interrupt one another or simply don’t listen when someone else is talking.

If it feels like everything that was said could have been in a slack message or an email it might be worth re-evaluating the goal of having one in the first place. 

DOES EVERYONE NEED TO BE IN THE STANDUP?

Communicating the entirety of a project’s needs can be difficult in multiple channels and meetings. Therein lies the beauty of a regular standup. In fact, many companies could benefit by changing email reports and status updates to a regular standup format.

However, an all-hands style becomes ungainly as the company grows and by sheer numbers won’t be contained to 15 minutes with 15 or more people. People not directly involved in a project can be disruptive and unhelpful or plain and simply bored. 


About Chanie - Chanie is the 'Everything Marketing' person for technology startup BugHerd. With a background in Traditional Marketing, she has embraced the world of Digital Marketing with a particular penchant for SEO, Digital Strategy and Content Marketing. Chanie is also a freelance food and travel writer with a popular blog about where to find weird and unusual foods.

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