Are Daily Status Meetings Still Needed?

I'm sure you're used to this scenario in your career by now: you start a new project and the manager instantly schedules daily standup meetings for everyone on the project to give their status. However, how many times has that meeting gone longer than the supposed no longer than 15 minutes? How many times has the discussion gone very off-topic taking even more of everyone's time? Quite a few times I'm sure.

I'm going to propose right now that I believe these mandatory daily meeting slots are no longer required for developing software using Agile.

It has long been said that meetings are usually a waste of everyone's time that has to be in them. If you look at the origins of these daily meetings, you will note that it was first brought up in the late 80s and into the 90s. It was then further developed in the early 2000s. At that point I can understand the use of them. Everybody was in the same office and there weren't any tools at that time that they can use to reduce or eliminate thier time in these meetings.

A lot of my thoughts in this post are going to resonate with a post Zach Holman did a long while ago about asynchronous communication. A good reason to use this type of communication is that people aren't commiting a specific block of their time. They can be in the best state of their entire career for programming thoughts to flow, but then they get a notification from their calendar that they have a status meeting in 15 minutes. This will definitely take them out of their flow state, take a few minutes to figure out what they need/want to say in the status meeting, then go to it.

From my experience these meetings always last longer than their intented length. It is said that they should only take 5 to 15 minutes total, but of course they usually go longer than that. And they usually go longer due to random, off-topic discussions. Whether it's about something with the project that came up and can be totally done over email or something about what the local college football team did the night before.

If the team is entirely remote then things get a bit more complicated. I agree with most things Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson suggest in their book, Remote: Office Not Required. Being remote should allow the employee the freedom to handle things at home at the time it happens. One example was that if you need to get groceries at 10am then you should be allowed to do that. Then you come back home and continue to work. Personally, if I need to take someone I care about to the doctor at that exact time, I shouldn't have to worry about whether or not I need to make it to a status meeting.

Communication Tools

I explained the reasons why it isn't the best reason to continue holding daily status meetings, but what can be done as an alternative? Communication tools are getting much better as time goes back. The company I currently work for has adopted Slack. While we can make a channel for each project that we have and say our status there, there are also bots that can be integrated to do this for us.

Email is still used widely for communication. However, in these times of instant gratification, folks tend to think that we should instantly get a response after sending an email. That's definitely not the case as email is still a tool of asynchronous communication. People will respond when they can to email. In fact, if people are following the advice from the The 4-Hour Workweek book, then they will only check email two or three times a day.

Again, communication tools, especially for remote workers, are getting much better as time goes by. Slack may get beat by another tool or company that comes alone in the future., Zoom, or Screenhero are great tools for screensharing or pairing. There are even sites that can help you find coding help instantly if you don't mind paying for it.

With the current state of tools these days and the growth of remote workers, having daily status meetings should be going as a thing of the past. Hindering employees flow state and taking their precious, and often expensive, time are too high of a price to pay for software projects. When daily statuses can be just a few minutes of typing at the leisure of the person giving the status, I really believe that having mandatory meeting times are a thing of the past.

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