Daily Stand-Up Meetings in Remote Teams

Daily stand-up meeting (also known as scrum meeting) is a short Agile ritual where each team member shares what they worked on, what they plan to work on and what is blocking them. It’s recommended to keep such meetings short and move any in-depth technical discussion to dedicated sessions.

Some engineers and managers don’t feel the need in daily stand-up meetings. They can either observe the process in their project management tools or have frequent discussions with team members. Managers may even see daily stand-ups as a way to control their reports. When team members feel like that, the trust gap between them and the manager only widens.

I agree that a cool project management tool and a fine-tuned agile process can give very high observability of the development process. I also think that communication between team members gives even more clarity. Still, I don’t see daily stand-up as a useless meeting. And when it comes to remote teams, daily stand-ups begin playing an even more significant role. Let me tell you why.

On-Site Team

When all team members work together and even sit together closeby, having daily stand-up meetings becomes very easy. They can just literally stand-up from their desks and exchange statuses. For the on-site teams, daily stand-up meetings are no more than a casual chat. I encourage such activity to be close to the team’s workspace. Going to a meeting room creates this weird meeting sensation, which some people want to avoid. If the team is small and communication is reasonably frequent, they may avoid daily stand-ups. In larger teams, there are several areas of focus. Therefore team members may not be aware of others work. Daily stand-up meeting reminds each team member that they’re part of a team and there’re high-level goals which the team tries to achieve. When the team becomes too large or too distributed, the feeling of being part of a team gets lost.

On-Site Team with Remote Members

When most team members work in the same office, but some are remote, the team gets split, and people feel left out of things. I was a big fan of text status updates on Slack. On one of my jobs, we even used a specialized tool for text status updates. As long as it’s about status, text works pretty well. One day our remote colleague shared his concerns in our 1on1 meeting. He was the only one remote at the time, and he told me that he felt a bit separated from the others. He worked in the team, without feeling the team. We, who sat together, didn’t feel that way of course and we were blind to the problem. Gradually we moved from text to 2-times a week and then to daily stand-ups. I got very positive feedback from my remote colleague because since then, his working day started with seeing other team members, exchanging little jokes, and learning about others progress. He felt he was part of the team.

Fully Remote Teams

I had my fair share of experience with remote teams. This kind of organization is a good fit for some people, especially those who don’t like open space. When organized well, remote teams can be very agile. In my opinion daily stand-up meeting is a must for completely remote teams. Not because of trust. If you don’t trust remote workers, you shouldn’t solve it with more control, but with transparency and clear expectations. I’ll talk about it in a different article. Daily stand-ups in remote teams play key unification role. People who work remotely don’t feel having a team. They feel like being individual contributors. This feeling may not have a visible effect on performance. But in individual contributions, people don’t account others, their communication style and decisions will stir to personal goals rather than team or organization goals. If you want to share a common goal or a product vision among all team members, you should invest in team-building activities. A daily stand-up meeting is a powerful and simple team-building activity for remote teams. Start doing daily stand-ups, and you’ll see great results shortly. Here’re a few tips to make this meeting useful:

  • Do it in the morning. You’re starting a new working day with your team members, encouraging each other.
  • Spend a couple of minutes on chit-chat and jokes. We all human, and we should make each other smile!
  • Keep the meeting very short and avoid in-depth technical discussions and brainstorming. Move those to separate sessions.
  • Keep each status very simple—no need to share every 5 minutes of your day with others.
  • Listen and clarify! Daily stand-up meeting can surface many issues and help you to react agile.

Overall I recommend discussing daily stand-up meetings with team members during 1on1s and retrospective sessions, especially if you just started doing them. It should be a pleasant meeting, and you should know if someone doesn’t feel that way.