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:
- Work together as a team
- Look at burndown chart to see if we're on track
- Hide the Done column
- Talk about where we're at
- 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:
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.
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 😅
The work is done, no need to discuss. We can look at the board.
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 😍
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.
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".
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companies
Getting that senior title is easy. Just stick around. Being a true senior takes a new way of thinking. Do you have it?
Get a free chapter from the Senior Engineer Mindset book and a sample audiobook chapter, followed by a Senior Mindset 101 email course.
You'll get insights to apply at your work right away.
Senior Mindset Book
Get promoted, earn a bigger salary, work for top companiesLearn more
Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, for frontend engineers 👉 ServerlessHandbook.dev
Want to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? Learn how to build scalable dataviz React components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization
Did someone amazing share this letter with you? Wonderful! You can sign up for my weekly letters for software engineers on their path to greatness, here: swizec.com/blog
By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you are ❤️