Goodbye, Retrospectives. Hello, Action: How we replaced daily stand-ups
Our morning stand-up was our staple start to the day. Like all good engineering teams, we said what we did yesterday, what we’re going to do today, and we mentioned any blockers we were facing. After working like this for over two years, I decided to ask a very important question – are stand-ups working for us?
In short: No.
And here’s why… They weren’t aiding any sort of meaningful collaboration between us, certainly not at the level required when working on highly complex problems in a data driven engineering team. Topics remained at the surface level as there was no structured way to delve deeper and see them through. After the call we found there was a dash to get the help we needed – who wants to take up everyone’s time talking about their own problems on a standup call, right? Stand-ups are supposed to be “short and sweet”, but that just didn’t cut it for us: we needed meaningful and enriching.
Goodbye, Standups. Hello, Engineering Labs.
So we decided to replace stand-ups in its traditional sense and re-framed our mornings into ‘Engineering Labs’. We set up a dedicated ‘labs’ Slack channel and a scheduled call at 9:30am. Engineers are free to raise Slack threads on the channel, and if they reach a satisfactory conclusion they are marked with a tick. All unresolved threads are discussed on the following morning’s 9:30am call. If there are no unresolved threads then there’s no need for a call. If there are threads open but you have nothing to add then no need to join the call and you are free to crack on. After all why disturb your morning if you’re an early riser and deep in code!
Trust = Productivity + Quality
We have been working like this for over two months now and the results are very noticeable. Everyone feels more at ease and we all feel trusted to get on and focus on the task at hand. Conversations from day to day flow effortlessly as we know what outstanding topics are still up for discussion and we just attack those. Our productivity has gone up and so has the quality of our output.
Goodbye, Retrospectives. Hello, Action.
Every Friday we have an extended lab. We talk about topics relating to process improvement, and we just act – simple. It negates the need for that official ‘retrospective’ – process improvement is just the norm.
Maybe it’s time for you to ask the question too? Who knows you might discover something to supercharge your day to day – we certainly did!
In another post I’ll talk about our ticket workflows and how they tie into this way of working, so watch out for that!