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    Effective standups

    Do you find standups to be a waste of time? I think they're a crucial part of the day.

    A new product manager joined our team and in his first sprint retro, he said "I was surprised by your standups. They're super effective and unlike any I've seen before"

    That reminded me that our standups are weird. Here's what we do:

    1. Work together as a team
    2. Look at burndown chart to see if we're on track
    3. Hide the Done column
    4. Talk about where we're at
    5. Agree on what we want to accomplish today

    Takes about 5min for a team of 5 people.

    We like to add an extra 10 minutes of banter since we have time and it's good for team cohesion. Creates a casual space to share our latest frustrations, solve capitalism, or talk about a cool thing we discovered.

    Why this works:

    0. Work as a team

    Working on one story at a time, together, reduces work in progress and improves flow. Makes pull requests faster to review, helping each other easier to do (no context switching), and means we're all thinking about the same things at standup.

    You're gonna care what Joe's up to today, if you're digging the same trench. Not so much if you aren't.

    Not working together is where terrible standups come from.

    1. Look at burndown chart

    We like to know if we're on track to finish standup or do we need to raise alarms. The earlier we can tell our product manager that something's wrong, the earlier we can realign and re-negotiate our commitments.

    This is why we haven't had a death march in 3 years despite growing the company 10x.

    At least on our team. I'm told our culture is "weird" even compared to the rest of the company 😅

    2. Hide the Done column

    The work is done, no need to discuss. We can look at the board.

    3. Talk about where we're at

    This is the important bit that takes ~5min.

    Everyone talks about what they're working on, whether they need help, and what they plan to take on next. Good time to raise any gotchas you uncovered – like a hidden dependency, missing requirement, or a UX question.

    My favorite part is when people say "After playing with this, I don't think it's gonna solve the problem for our users". Then we grab the product manager and suggest a different approach.

    Sometimes the pivot in approach happens right there during standup, if the PM had time to join. Those are fantastic standups! Oop we found a problem -> discuss real quick -> solve 😍

    4. Agree on what we want to accomplish today

    This is a new innovation and it's been wonderful. Straight out of my workday ritual that keeps me sane, but applied to the whole team.

    At the end of standup we ask: "Okay so does everyone know what we're trying to accomplish today?" and define a clear objective.

    This helps us stay focused and say No to things that show up, but aren't important to what we want to get done today. Oh you got a cool bug? Can it wait for tomorrow? Oh you want to refactor? Does it help you get today's thing done?

    Procrastinate! Never do today what you can do tomorrow.

    Although, as tech lead, a big part of my job is taking those little side quests so the rest of the team can stay focused. It's a blessing and a curse.

    The banter

    It's fun.

    If you don't have time to banter with your team, you're doing it wrong. And probably taking on waaaay too much work. Relax. Have fun.

    Many of my best contributions come out of that banter when the team says "Wow this stupid thing wasted a bunch of my time again, why can't this be easier".


    Published on June 4th, 2023 in Teamwork

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