The worst daily standup

Probably the worst daily standup meeting I was part of had 30+ people. Imagine 30 people in a room (plus some more remotely) with 1 minute each to share their updates.

It was unproductive, boring, and wasteful. Although this is an extreme example, most of the daily standup meetings fall under this spectrum. As a result, team members don’t want to attend; they look at them as busy work (“why am I keeping JIRA up to date?”) and invent excuses to avoid it.

Another bad type of meeting is the “pushy” one. If you make your engineers feel threatened, under extreme pressure or push them around to get stuff done, you will get only two things: they will avoid the daily meeting or lie about their updates.

A better format

The daily standup is a spotlight meeting. It is a place where engineers showcase their progress. It is not a trial; it is showtime.

I propose a better format for the daily standup meeting, with only two questions:

  1. Have you made progress yesterday?
  2. What was the most important progress that you’ve made?

Of course, you expect your engineers to make progress every day, but reality can prove you wrong. You want to catch those cases and help.

The second question is, “tell me what you are most proud of.” Be careful not to smash into pieces the feeling of proudness we all engineers feel during the daily standup meeting. Don’t question. Listen.


So what about the “do you have any blockers?” question. In my opinion, that’s a BS question. No one wants to attend the daily standup to talk about blockers.

You want to build a culture where blockers are removed as soon as they appear; after all, that’s your primary job as a leader: remove blockers. If you ask that question and get a positive answer back, you are failing at your primary job.


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Leo Celis