Death to the Standup Cult

The standup is a mainstay of modern agile development teams.

It evolved as an attempt to keep meetings short and regular:

  • We want to facilitate communication
  • Meetings attempt to do this, but are unstructured, and go on too long
  • If we stand when we have a meeting, peoples legs will get sore, and the meeting will have to be kept short
  • Stand-up meetings still go on too long, and lack structure, but now our legs are sore too

The thrust of enhancing communication is to ensure that everyone knows what other members of the team are up to, and what the current focus is. This ritual is often paired with Kanban style card walls so that tasks and progress can be represented symbolically and made visible. This can be beneficial, but doesn’t necessarily have to be part of stand-up itself.

Given that we have the means and the motivation for more on-line communication between team members these days, why do we need a wacky meeting structure like stand-up at all?

Can’t we just tell each other what we’re doing on IM?

I’ve been experimenting with a simple newsletter aiming to do a weekly round-up of the top IM team channel posts in order to facilitate cohesion and shared focus. This is modeled on the Haskell Weekly News newsletter.


  • A heading for each team-member, highlighting interesting IM excerpts
  • If there was nothing shared, then simply the text “No Update”

This is intended to encourage sharing within the channel anything interesting, so that people are aware of their own visibility.


  • The editor could be perceived to use this as a venue for self-promotion

A possible remedy for this could be to rotate the editor.

  • People may not like it if they feel their work isn’t being represented fairly

Be ready with a pursuasive defence of this practice - emphasising that all that is required is good communication with team-mates, and a culture of self-promotion, otherwise you may find that your endvour is nipped in the bud.

An Example

Corp Analysis Team Weekly News
January 11  -  January 15 2015

CAT Weekly News archives can be found at

~~~ New Developments ~~~

* Debora was promoted to Senior Analyst
* We launched version two of our numeric incrementer REST API!

~~~ Top Undertakings ~~~

* Data Dumping
* Number Crunching
* User Acquisition

~~~ Team Members ~~~

Amy Anderson
* Joined the team, said Hi on Slack

Brent Bronson
* Raised concerns about slow corporate wireless
* Assisted with upgrading Menix servers

Caleb Carlson
* Got standalone crab cluster delivered to marketing

Debora Drummond
* Crunched the highest number to date!
* Blocking procedure augmentation in progress

Eric Emerson
* Got funding approved for expansion in Q3

Felicia Forbes
* No update

If there is no update, then including the team-member with a “No Update” item ensures that they aren’t forgotten about, and reminds them that if they had something they wanted highlighted, then they can mention it on IM to have it included in the next newsletter.

The new-developments and top-undertakings sections provide a space for news not explicitly related to individual members, as well as a spot to reiterate the team’s focus. This should never grow too large, as that would indicate a dilution of what should be perceived as a shared goal.

It’s often worth re-examining ritual so that we don’t fall into a cargo-cult mentality. If we look more deeply at the purpose of the ritual, then we may be able to factor out the implementation and have more focused and orthogonal practices to achieve the goals. This allows teams to be more asynchronous, but just as effective.

So, what factor does a team newsletter encompass?

I think that factor is Cohesion.