We don't do standups, but we still get things done

June 17th 2022

Ever since I started “learning how to be a software engineer”, my least favorite part was daily standups. In the final years of school as upperclassmen, we had a few classes where we were doing actual dev work with our team, other students. Every day, at the top of the work time, we were forced to do daily standups.

It was those three dreaded questions: what did you do yesterday, what are you doing today, are you blocked by anything.

The questions seem innocent and helpful, but every day I stressed out about them. I was getting work done, I knew what I did yesterday and what I was doing today, but I always choked and blanked right at the moment, even if I wrote it down. On top of that, it meant you could never be late (and I’ll be honest, I am not a morning person).

Now that I’m a product manager and in charge of how we run our team, we don’t do daily standups. Yet, the world isn’t falling apart and we still finish our tasks. Here’s what we do.

At the beginning of the week, we have a client meeting to go over what we completed last week, where our focus is this week, and if there is anything we need to discuss. Did you notice that those questions are almost the same as the typical standup questions? They’re just on a weekly timeline rather than daily.

After the client meeting, we have a team meeting to go over anything that’s unclear and just get on the same page. At the end of the week, we do an asynchronous check-in – just post in a weekly thread what you accomplished this week so that everyone knows. This is also useful to remember where you left off come Monday.

Working on a weekly timeline alleviates a few things. First, not everyone is firing on all cylinders every single day. It sucks getting to a daily standup and figuring out how to say “I didn’t get anything done yesterday because I just couldn’t focus,” or having to get in front of everyone and saying you’re struggling with something. But the rest of the week, you might be killing it and complete everything and more. And personally, I never got any benefit from telling everyone what I was stuck on – I still had to reach out.

Second, most of our engineers are on at least two projects. That means we’d have to have double or triple the standup meetings to account for every day of each project, and that’s just exhausting.

And finally, since we’re a fully remote company, not everyone is working at the same time. Some have to drop off kids, some don’t work on certain days, and some start work later in the day. As we grow, it’s harder to expect everyone on a team to be somewhere at the same time, every day; life changes. But once a week is achievable.

And now maybe you’re wondering, “what if you’re stuck, how do you let people know?” This question is something we’ve tried really hard to make easy – just ask. There’s a bit of an unspoken open-doors policy around here. Reach out to your teammates, your PM, anyone at the company at any time, and they’ll be happy to help when they can. We also have a HELP! channel in Basecamp – write up a post, and it’ll alert everyone that someone needs help; the person with the right skillset will come along.

The bottom line? Trust your devs and and give them more time to focus. Things will get done despite not having daily check-ins.


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