Once upon a time, I would arrive at the office at 9AM. My teammates and I would gather in a circle, passing a ball around. When it was my turn to speak, I’d discuss:
- What I accomplished yesterday
- My plans for today
- Any obstacles in my way
We’d limit the standup to a maximum of 15 minutes. If the discussion extended beyond that, a teammate would throw Elmo into the ring, signaling: Enough, Let’s Move On.
However, we’re not living in those times anymore. The era of Covid-19 has shown us that offices are quite expendable, and many employees appreciate working from home for at least a few days each week.
But this shift has transformed the daily standup into a pinnacle of inefficiency.
Physical meetings are organic and part of being a sociable human being. Digital meetings, on the other hand, require more mental energy and context switching. As in the minutes before a digital meeting, you can’t start a new task. After a digital meeting, it takes time to revert back to ‘deep work mode’. And all that time is spent for what?
For a glorified status update.
Sometimes I hear people complain about “a meeting that could’ve been an email”. In my opinion, the daily standup is exactly that. If you’re as easily distracted as me, you could sit through a daily standup without retaining anything that’s been said.
On the other hand, if we had a Slack thread named
#team-warehouse-standup, where we commit to posting a message at the beginning of the day outlining our plans, and another at the end of the day summarizing what we accomplished, we would have full accountability and an easy overview of what people are working on. No more active listening. Access to information when we need it.
So, should we never have meetings anymore? Definitely not. Meetings can significantly expedite work if used correctly:
- Encourage meetings to arise organically; members should feel free to check-in when they need help from a team member.
- Promote pair programming or collaborative problem-solving.
- If the team feels there’s a need to discuss a specific topic, definitely schedule something for that as well.
- In our hybrid and digital workplaces, the “daily standup” no longer makes sense.
- Instead, opt for a message thread with daily updates.
- Allow meetings to arise organically.
Do you agree? Let me know what you think in the comments!