Stand-ups are a crutch

Published on 2013-6-12


You know the feeling, you're hacking away on some feature on the to-do list, having a conversation about it with the team in the team-chat of your preference and perhaps you're dancing to some of your favourite music whilst you flick between the two. You are in the zone.

Hey, everyone, stand-up time

Boom, just like that you're back to reality and detaching yourself from your game zone. You're breaking up that conversation, you're turning off the music and worst of all you're leaving your flow so you can all talk about what everybody knows already because they've been talking about it the whole time they've been working.

At one end of the spectrum

Stand-ups in already-effective teams are at best a way to force some meat-space interaction between team members, and at worst a harmful distraction costing you hours of combined productivity in return for very little that couldn't have been achieved in the course of conversation over a beer at lunch.

In a good team, folk will have been pairing and watching the pull requests come in - people who aren't doing anything will tell you they aren't doing anything. People who are stuck will tell you that they're stuck. If someone isn't doing these things other developers will call them out on it because it's pretty obvious that nothing has come from their corner for a while.

In short an effective team doesn't need this crap because they're already doing what they should be doing - getting work done and sharing information about the work they're doing.

At the other end of the spectrum

In teams that aren't being effective, stand-ups are often used as a way to force some mumblings out of developers towards what they've done and what they're doing today - and usually that's pretty much all you'll get out of them because they sure as hell don't want to admit they've just been pushing code around this week.

Once they're back in their seats, they'll still not talk, they'll still not interact because hey, they had a stand-up and can get back to pushing meaningless code around.

Worst of all with daily stand-ups, crap teams with crap people on them won't even do any work before that organised daily stand-up because hey - the stand-up is coming and they don't want to be interrupted right? But you can't start the stand-up until everyone is there so everybody ends up starting work at 10am - golf clap.

Don't work at the wrong end of the spectrum

Fine, you're in a crap team - go and make it a not-crap team. I'm not here to tell you how to do that, plenty of team management gurus are out there charging their thousands of dollars in order to give you a penny of their thoughts. I can tell you from experience that stand-ups won't fix your communication problems because in my experience they'll just get used as an excuse not to communicate the rest of the time.

Or accept you're in a crap environment and carry on doing whatever. This blog post is not for you.

If you are the better end of the spectrum you don't need that stand-up

I've given up working for people who work at the wrong end of the spectrum, I'm not working for crappy enterprise companies that have all of their other bullshit problems as well - I'm hopefully never doing it again. My flitting about and working for free shone the light on the harm that was causing me.

Hopefully you've made that call too at some point - well done you beat me to it, now think about why you're still having those stand-ups and who they're for. Are they for you and the team or are they for somebody else and is there another way you can get them that information?

In the modern age of distributed and online team-work, purposefully stopping what everybody is doing so they can stand in some sort of daily ritual circle is just plain bizarre.

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