Stand-Up Meetings Are Dead (and What to Do Instead)

Stand-up meetings go asynchronous

As the world abruptly cut over to remote work in early 2020, we all scrambled to replicate our existing team practices in this new distributed world. Of course, we all know that distributed work is best done asynchronously, and thus the asynchronous (async) stand-up was born.

The problems with async stand-ups

The first problem that you run into with async stand-ups is the lack of any cue or forcing function. With stand-ups, somebody has to, you know … stand up at the prescribed time. But no matter — let’s add a Slack reminder to our team room! Which helps, but it’s still far too easy to miss in scrollback, and it totally falls apart in the face of a team that spans different time zones. So okay, let’s set up a Slackbot for stand-ups! Slackbots do a fine job with the reminder problem by sending their nagging DMs at time zone–appropriate times. So problem solved? Not so fast.

What to do instead of stand-up meetings

Let’s go back to how this whole stand-up thing started. The reason it could be a 10-minute meeting was that all of the team’s needs were already met outside of stand-up. As Seth Godin expertly points out, the real magic of the office was that connection was effortless. Need to follow up on a conversation from stand-up? Chat about it on the way back to your desk. Need a quick review of your design? Grab a co-worker and a whiteboard. Want to welcome the new hire to the company? Head out to lunch together.

The meandering team sync

What does this “meandering team sync” look like? For my team at Honeycomb, our meetings are an hour a day, five days a week. I can already hear the productivity crowd moaning in the back — but I’m genuinely not sure we could devise a better use of our time.

Why the meandering team sync works

It’s counterintuitive that spending a whole eighth of the week in a team meeting would be a win. What’s going on here?

How to start moving from stand-up meetings to meandering team syncs

Ease in with some structure. Come prepared with some conversation starters. For instance, on a previous team, we had a practice of going around the room on Mondays and talking about our weekends. This is a great opportunity to both be goofy and learn more about each other as human beings.

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Ben Darfler

Ben Darfler

Engineering Leader, Father, Meditator, Elected Official, He/Him. Currently Director @ Honeycomb.io