Daily Standups Discourage Slacking

Another entry into the posts of genre “Daily standups are a horrible evil.”

This genre of posts exists because we have let ourselves believe the polite fiction that daily standup meetings are all about sharing information and keeping our colleagues well-informed and blah-blah-blah.

The truth is that what daily standups do, in large part, is keep people from slacking and inform their managers when they are slacking.  We just don’t say that, because it sounds so gosh-darn mean.  We aren’t supposed to say, in polite company, that sometimes employees slack off and need to be prodded back into line.  It’s paternalistic and makes people think of the reality that they’re in a hierarchy, not a “team,” and they might not be entirely perfect.

But here’s the fact:  lots of employees slack.  In only a minority of all cases is this because the employees are terrible and need firing.  All kinds of things turn into slack: an unpleasant current task; getting stuck; just a bad day; finishing something and not quite knowing what to do next; feeling like you don’t matter.  We are none of us perfect, and almost every one of us can use a bit of carrot and stick to get us moving from time to time.

Standups provide those carrots and sticks.  When you can report having accomplished something, in person, in an excited tone of voice, to your fellow employees who will be impressed, even if that information doesn’t really impact them for the next day, it’s a carrot.  When you have to hem and haw your way through a report of no progress, in front of your manager and everyone, it’s a stick.  And that’s all right.

Most of the Agile productivity tools (standups, very short stories that should be accomplished in less than a day, intense collaboration, pairing) help to gently correct slackery.  But because we’ve gotten really adverse to suggesting to employees that they might have tendencies towards slack that need managing, we have to pretend that that aspect of the tools don’t exist, and then this weakens the case for Agile.

You probably slack sometimes.  These tools make you less of a slacker, in a pretty painless way.

He said, posting during work hours.

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