Remote work

A guide to Daily Stand Ups For Remote Teams

Daily stand ups have become a part of agile teams that work in sprints. They allow scrum masters and managers to stay on track with the work being done, the work scheduled and the bottlenecks during a sprint. 

Typically these daily standups are of 10-15 minutes and happen daily during the early working hours of a business. As much as they have been endorsed in the past for their role in lifting quality and control of delivery (especially in software teams), the very same daily stand ups are now being observed under a lens for some old age designs that naturally come with them.

In this guide for daily stand ups for remote teams, we will walk you through what’s wrong with daily stand ups and how you can do them better with your remote teams.

First, let’s try to understand why these daily stand ups happen in the first place. 

Reasons why remote teams conduct daily stand ups?

As we said earlier, these daily standups highlight three things commonly: 

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What will you do today? 
  • Is there anything that will hinder your execution of today? And, how can I help you resolve any foreseeable obstacles? 

Those three simple questions that we try to answer during these daily stand ups bring incredible amounts of information to the table for managers or scrum masters to learn from, act and predict agile delivery. They can act on top of this information and reach business goals. That’s why most remote teams conduct daily stand up meetings. 

Reason #2 of why teams conduct daily stand ups is to keep every other team member in loop.

And often daily stand ups compensate for the lack of face to face meetings in a remote setting, where remote team members get to speak and interact with all team members. 

But as we said earlier, daily stand ups (especially with remote teams) bring some challenges that are more than minor inconveniences. In the next section we will go over a few of these challenges. 

Challenges with remote teams and daily standups? 

Daily stand ups are not async

Since daily stand ups by their very own nature aren’t async, everyone has to jump on a call at a particular time. This means that people across different time zones will have to adjust to (often) odd hours to work together. This adjustment comes at a cost as someone usually has to adjust their sleeping schedule, lunch, etc. 

Daily stand ups for these reasons often have been regarded as not too inclusive for people out of specific time zones.

10-15 minutes of daily standups = 30-40 minutes of time lost 

A big argument against daily stand ups has been for the amount of time it actually consumes. Ideally, you can expect to lose 20-30 minutes in total of focused time (including minutes before and after daily stand ups).

30-40 minutes per day means more than 2-3 hours lost per week on focused time. This is where most companies feel that if they can replace their daily stand ups by something like a Loom based video stand up, they would try that.

Daily stand ups are draining for your team

Often daily stand ups involve a large number of team members that have to sit through everyone's task while getting no benefit out of being present at the conversation. Imagine having a large backlog to deal with and having to sit through a 45 minute stand up because it is mandatory - that creates a lot of fatigue and unnecessary stress for your team members.

Daily stand ups force “yes” 

Daily stand ups have a design problem, they are like a fire round where the time to think and answer is limited. And that limited time to think becomes a big factor in how your team members respond to questions like: 

“I think that’s a small problem, let’s not over think it”

“Module X isn’t going to create an issue as far as I know, do you still think you need to fix it before starting Task #13”

This design of time constraint is also why we know most engineers say “Yes” to a task/solution during a daily stand up and later raise a flag. 

How to make remote daily stand ups better? 

With all these problems, daily stand ups still provide an incredible value to us. Here’s how we can make minor changes to make daily stand ups better: 

  1. Change the way you conduct daily stand ups -  for example, you can do Slack channel threads that replace the sync video experience or use Loom to do share your 2 minute status.
  2. Eliminate poorly planned daily stand ups and replace them with the ones that start with a clear agenda and a clear outcome. If your daily stand up fails to achieve these two goals, there’s no point in conducting them at all.
  3. Control the amount of time you spend on these meetings. Ideally use a timer to ensure that while everyone gets to say what they want, you can adjust the amount of time to make sure the meeting is productive for everyone. 

With these 3 points mentioned above, you can significantly lift the effectiveness of your daily stand ups with your remote team. 

How to do daily remote standups via Slack? 

If your team can work asynchronously, you can start using Slack instead of a video meeting for daily stand ups. You can create a channel named #dailystandups within your Slack work space. Now, within this slack work space, automate a message to post daily around specific time zones of your work space users. You can use a range of apps to achieve this automated message posting. 

Your automated message doesn’t have to be something very complicated. At the end you need answers to the following questions:

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What will you do today? 
  • Is there anything that will hinder your execution of today? And, how can I help you resolve any foreseeable obstacles? 

Ask your team members to reply to this Slack message by answering these questions under the same thread. Review those answers and act. 

That’s it! 


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