A Better Way to Do Daily Standup Meetings

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We’ve all been taught that it’s important to have daily standup meetings. These are meant to encourage information flow between teams, but the problem is that they’re actually structured to restrict information flow. We’ve come up with a better way at Treehouse and I wanted to share it with you.

Traditional Standup Meetings

The traditional daily standup meeting goes like this:

  • The standup meeting is conducted face-to-face (in person or over video chat) and is limited to 15 minutes.
  • Each person has 1-2 minutes to express what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today and what’s blocking them from completing important tasks.
  • Someone holds a timer and keeps the meeting on schedule. If a discussion breaks out, the person running the meeting asks people to discuss it after the meeting.

As Tommy Morgan explained in his post Daily Meetings are Great but You Should Never Have Them, the whole point of a standup meeting is to exchange information, but asking questions to clarify issues and receive insight are banned. These face-to-face meetings are also very disruptive because you have to stop what you’re doing to attend, whether you’re in the zone or not. Tommy’s proposal is to do daily standup meetings over email instead. I liked his idea but I wanted to take it even further.

A New Way to do Daily Standup Meetings

Email is sub-optimal for this kind of daily standup meeting because of the following reasons:

  1. No threaded comments. Long email threads quickly breakdown into reply-hell where it’s difficult to tell who said what and to whom they’re talking.
  2. Not searchable or transparent to other teams who might want/need to know what your team is doing. If you weren’t on the email thread, you don’t have access to the data.

I was discussing the idea of email daily standups with Grant Roholt and he had a killer idea: Why not use Convoy, the Treehouse internal Reddit clone, to post daily standup updates?

So here’s how it works:

  1. I create a post in Convoy that is titled “YYYY-MM-DD Daily Standup” and email the link to the people in the standup meeting.
  2. When they have time, they check their email, click the link and post a comment to the thread with their daily update.
  3. Throughout the day the other folks circle back to the thread and ask specific questions to get further insight into what was posted. Threaded comments are natively built into Convoy (Reddit) so it’s super easy to read back through the thread and understand what’s happening.
  4. The thread is public to the whole company so anyone can drop in and see what my team is up to, and ask questions if necessary. This matches the “Open Doors” Treehouse Value.
  5. All the daily standups go into a category (for example Designer Team Daily Standups) so that anyone can easily go back in time and see what was said/done in previous meetings – an automatic record of what everyone said they’d do so they can be held accountable.

Screenshot of our internal tool at Treehouse for doing standup meetings

We’re going to build in @replies so that when you mention someone in a comment, they’ll get an email and be reminded to come back to the thread and reply.

How do you do it?

How do you conduct daily standup meetings? What works well and what’s a pain in the ass for you? Looking forward to chatting in the comments!

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Ryan Carson

Ryan is the CEO and Founder of Treehouse an online technology school that teaches you how to code, how to start a business, how to make websites, iPhone/iPad apps and Android apps. Previously Ryan founded Carsonified (acquired 2011) and DropSend (acquired 2008). Ryan was born in 1977 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He graduated from Colorado State University in 2000 with a degree in Computer Science. He then moved to the United Kingdom to pursue a bit of adventure and fun and ended up meeting Gillian, getting married and having two wonderful boys. He and his family now live in Portland Oregon. Feel free to follow him at @ryancarson or check out his blog at ryancarson.com


11 comments on “A Better Way to Do Daily Standup Meetings

  1. I work at a small company and we have daily standup meetings

    Sometimes I think it’s a waste of time beacuse someone can explain what he’s working on and the difficulties he’s having, so all the attention goes to that person and instead of having a 15 min meeting, it can go to 40 or 50 min meeting

    I think having a meeting in the middle of the week (wednseday) can work better instead of having it daily

      • We use the “rule of 3″ for things like this. If the conversation goes back and forth three times, it is taken offline. Anyone at the meeting can identify this, so that there isn’t one “jerk in the room” always telling people to shut up. We have instituted the use of the word “pineapples” to indicate that a conversation has gone on too long in a less invasive way. This lightheartedness may not work for all companies but it has made things run smoothly for us.

  2. We’ve been doing it very similarly for the last year or so with great success, except we called it “Devolgs” and use http://gingerhq.com (a realtime threaded discussions). We’re a small distributed team with people that cover every timezone, so face-to-face standups are impossible and email is just terrible for tracking discussions. We wrote our take on a while back @ http://blog.helloginger.com/2012/07/devlogs-our-stand-in-for-stand-ups.html

  3. I have been doing work as a project manager, brand identifier, web developer and designer, and creative contributor of a project for an author and his book for almost three years now and although our team is extremely small at the moment, we find that phone, Skype, or Google Chat meetings usually do the best. Mainly because we spend much more time discussing elements and painting pictures for the team.

  4. We have been using https://idonethis.com/ very successfully for the same purpose. Works a lot better compared to f2f especially for distributed teams that are also quite far appart in terms of timezones.