Radical Remote Tip: No Standups

I've worked with several managers and team leaders over the past few weeks as everyone is suddenly remote.

Every single person in a leadership position struggles with (agile) team transparency. These leaders think the team members work alone. (I think they're correct.) The leaders worry that the team won't finish the team's work. (Correct again.) What can the leader do about this lack of finishing? More standups. One leader thought he could get people to conduct standups at 8am, noon, and 5pm.

Wrong. Bad idea. Don't do this.

When we ask for more meetings, we interrupt people just as they might have an hour or two to work. We ask makers to work as managers. (If you're not sure of those words, read Paul Graham's classic article, “Maker's Schedule Manager's Schedule“.)

Remember the purpose of a standup: the team recommits to and collaborates on the work.   That's the reason for a standup.

Standups are not for serial status meetings. Standups don't create transparency—standups expose when teams are not transparent.

Your Context has Changed

Before you ask for more standup times, remember your context has changed. You went suddenly remote. And, it's not just the team context that changed, it's each team member's context has changed.

Consider each team member's context:

  • Do team members have children who need parental involvement?
  • Do team members support their spouse/significant other who is essential? (That means your team member is a single parent.)
  • Do your team members need time to check on elder parents or neighbors?
  • Do team members need time to shop—which they might do during the day because the grocery stores close early?

Your team members might have more or different circumstances that create pressure on their “normal” daily schedule.

Each of these circumstances means your team members might not be available for a standup twice or three times a day.

When you ask for more standups every day, you say to people:

  • We don't care about or respect your other commitments.
  • We assume you only live to work.
  • We assume you can't manage your team-based work as a team.

That's management control. That kind of control is incongruent with agile leadership.

Here's what you can do:

  • Ask for working agreements about hours of overlap. When can your team meet and work during the day?
  • Ask people to consider pairing, swarming, and mobbing to work in flow efficiency, not resource efficiency.
  • Ask people to consider alternatives to standups. What would have to be true of their work for them to not need standups?

I'm not big on standups. The teams I coach tend to get better results when they collaborate in ways that fit for them, multiple people on one story. (No tasks, only stories.) That limits the team's WIP and decreases their cycle time.)

Collaborate on the Work to Avoid Meetings

If you're a leader and you worry about how a team is progressing, reread Five Tips for Managers of Newly Dispersed Teams. What can you see every day in terms of product progress or measures that help you see what the completes?

Don't ask people to meet more often. That puts pressure on their personal schedules and disrespects each person's needs at this time.

Instead, consider how you can support the team members to work together. You might discover other ways to support or serve:You might facilitate their working agreement discussions. Or, discussions about the work so they create stories that offer outcomes, not outputs. Or, discussions about the delays or bottlenecks they have.

Don't create more meetings that interfere with their maker's schedule. Suddenly remote teams don't need more aggravation.

Say No to more standups.

Yes, I'll add this post to the Collection of My Rapidly Remote and Managing in Uncertainty Writing.

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