Standup meetings are a light weight communication tool that many teams utilize to communicate and spread knowledge to everyone that is involved in the project. Those involved includes not only developers, it can include quality control, business, etc, but not everyone has to contribute. Typically, the standup meeting happens in the morning before development starts (At least that is my personal experience with two teams). The intention of this post is not to talk about what standup meetings are, so if you want to know more information about them, it can be found here.
We use standup meetings, like many other teams, to avoid long meetings in order to convey some ideas. Our standup meeting starts between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. because that will give people a chance to settle down before the meeting. The meetings last around 30 minutes (occasionally longer), which is way too long and reduces the amount of working time we have in a day. We decided to cut it down to 15 minutes or less by writing down on a note card what we need to say during the meeting. The reason we did that is because we noticed time is wasted when we try to remember what needed to be communicated in the meeting. It is very import to convey all the necessary information during the meeting, so everyone can be on the same page. This approach saved us some time, but the downside is that we have to keep track of what we want to say the day before. If a person is unexpectedly out for the day, some information might be not conveyed. As we all know, communication is the key to a successful team. Another problem we had was the developers talking about technical details that people who are not in development might not care about. We solved this problem by not allowing people to go into details unless necessary. On top of that, we also feel that the information that surfaced during standup was not really news to everyone, just to a couple of people. If everyone is already on the same page, there is no point in wasting everyone’s time. In addition, we feel like the actual development starts late in the day since we do not want to start developing until after the meeting.
During one of our retrospective meetings, we pointed out all the problems we encountered during the standup meetings. We decided to try an iteration without standup meetings and see where it would take us. In the worst case, we can always bring it back if needed. Initially, business people had some concerns because they receive all the information related to development during standup meetings. Surprisingly, a few weeks passed and we have totally forgotten that we abandoned the standup meetings. In order to keep everyone in the loop, we made a few other minor adjustments besides dropping the standup meetings.
We realized that we were using standup meetings as a way to communicate all information. If we have a question for the business group, we should grab them as soon as the question comes up, not wait until a specific time. If we have a problem relating to the architecture, we can call for an impromptu design meeting. The point is, if something needs to be communicated it can happen at any time, no need to reserve a special time for it. By doing so, we are able to keep everything in context and involve the appropriate people in the conversation. Since everything is in context, the discussion is kept to a minimum. The side effect of this is everyone is in the loop at all times without having the standup meetings.
We were able to get away with not using standup meetings because we have a highly communicative team, which is not to say standup meetings are not useful to others. I believe every team needs to fine tune its process in order to receive the most benefit from it.