Dragons in the Algorithm
Adventures in Programming
by Michael Chermside

Author: mcherm

Standups

Question: Do you feel that daily standups add value?

Only a couple of times in my life have I been involved in a project where a single highly-motivated developer worked independently on a project without a need to communicate about changing requirements, share development and code-review effort with others, or coordinate with external teams that owned systems that had to be integrated. In those rare cases I don't know that that daily standups add much value.

But in all other cases I think daily standups add value, and if you do them right I find that they add a lot of value for the time invested. The value is two-fold. The most important part is communication. Sharing your low-level progress with team members allows them to coordinate all the places where the work overlaps, whether that is working on an API that someone else needs to call or just setting up time to do a code review of a large feature that's about to be ready for review. The second benefit is in maintaining the focus on results. Even when one has the best of intentions, it is easier to deliver clear value every day when you expect to stand up the next day and say whether you accomplished what you committed to yesterday. Social pressure is a highly effective tool, one which you can apply to yourself as well as to others.

The other half of the equation is the time invested. I've seen "standups" that morph into a daily hour-long status meeting in which 9 different developers each spend 5 minutes talking about their work. That isn't a good use of people's time. The ideal standup (in my opinion) is very short and very focused. Each person takes just a couple of sentences to say what they accomplished yesterday, what they'll be working on today, and if they need help with anything. All discussion happens afterward (and those not involved leave the room). It requires some discipline to build good habits, but to me, a quick focused meeting like that (with a reasonable-sized team) feels energizing, not wasteful.

Posted Tue 16 April 2019 by mcherm in Software Development

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