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I work in a service centre of about 30-40 people (essentially developers) who work together in smaller teams. Most of these teams have their own "normal" stand-up meeting in the morning : everyone speaks about what they did yesterday, what they are going to do and the problems they encountered.

Every day at 2pm (after lunch break), we all gather in the large open plan office for a second, bigger stand-up meeting. The main goal of this one is to make announcements and talk about important matters. However there is rarely anything to say and we usually end up staring at one another for one minute in an awkward silence before returning to our desks.

Some people don't even bother to stand up and continue whatever they were doing as if nothing was happening. Everyone agrees that this meeting is kind of useless - if you ask them individually - but noone seems to be willing to stop. Maybe they are afraid to break something that looks like a tradition.

I have been trying to find ideas in order to improve this, or at least draw something positive out of it. Maybe schedule it only once a week ? Have each team speak briefly about their work even if it isn't relevant for the others ? Note that even if some teams are using agile-like methods, this is mostly a non-agile environment.

So shall I point out that we should stop wasting everyone's time or is there something we could do about it ?

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    that sounds excruciating – atxgis Sep 21 '17 at 16:50
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    Make the meeting "attendance optional". It people don't consider it useful, it'll be dead in a week. – Erik Sep 21 '17 at 17:34
  • @Erik I wouldn't make it optional. If its dead in a week, its dead in a week. One should check the teams reaction to the meeting and decide after some Dailies how to handle attendance. – Max Sep 21 '17 at 17:51
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    To be clear, you have a "meeting" with more than 30 people? Because that's more a jamboree than a meeting in my book. – Lilienthal Sep 21 '17 at 18:40
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    Having been through something similar, we settled on one person from each individual team attending a "scrum of scrums" to share any relevant info and then feeding back to their own team afterwards. This also ended up once per week instead of once per day. I think the key is to avoid doctrine and do what makes sense for your work environment; tailor the methodology to your own needs. – JonathanS Sep 21 '17 at 20:42
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Daily stand ups are often misunderstood. Often they turn into daily reports. Your smaller standup sounds much like a daily report.

That's because it's how you were trained. Easy "just follow this script" training is cheap. Real communication requires you engage the audience. That's the com- part of communication.

So a great standup is about what others want to hear. They probably don't care that you fixed 5 bugs. They might like to hear "I just changed X, if you discover a problem with it, contact me."

Be diplomatic with one-on-one communication in a group setting: one-on-one time is keeping the rest of the group waiting. So while a single person might be interested if you are working on stuff that might impact them, only mention that you need to coordinate in the meeting, and schedule the coordination afterwards. "Hey you're working on DNS, can we meet after the meeting? I think my next task could require some coordination around your work."

The bigger meeting is poorly conceived; but, that's not your fault. You can't scale communication up by just putting more people in a room. Odds are it was chatty at first, leading to no forward progress. Then is was probably "repaired" by complaints, leading to the too quiet situation you are now in.

If you want these meetings to become relevant, I suggest you have people repeat 2 or 3 of best items targeted for others in the larger meeting, without expanding too much in the group setting even if asked to do so. "Let's follow up on that question after the meeting" generally works.

If you want these meetings to stop, I recommend that your small group has periodic (but not daily) presentation meetings, where you prepare for a 15 to 20 minute presentation of recent accomplishments and possible points of coordination. Keep in mind that you are probably not in a position to alter the company's procedures, so I'd recommend attempting to fix the meeting first.

Stand ups that are free of usefulness to others lead to people that don't care to be there. Be prepared for odd behavior when attempting to change the standup. Some people will demand you return to a bad standup pattern. Some will get excited and over-share stuff few people can find useful. You must exhibit calm and consistent behavior to change the situation, or the situation will just return to the least-objectionable meeting, which is what you have right now.

  • You are absolutely right. I might want to try to improve the morning stand-ups as well. – Green Sep 22 '17 at 7:46
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So shall I point out that we should stop wasting everyone's time or is there something we could do about it ?

I would not say it that way, as telling others to "stop waisting your time" could be perceived as something rude.

However, if you feel the meetings could be done less frequently then you should suggest that, as it seems to be a good way of making more use of your time while still having those meetings and the benefits they surely sometimes have.

Also, you say:

However there is rarely anything to say and we usually end up staring at one another for one minute in an awkward silence before returning to our desks.

I think that just one minute is not a whole time being wasted, so probably could be a bit exaggerated to say that you are wasting tons of productive time. However this reflects the original problem you noticed, and seems to suggest less frequent meetings could be a good thing to do.

Also, a quick check saying "Hey guys, has anyone something they would like to tell us all today at the meeting?", could be useful. That way you can know before the meeting if it is worth having it.

This can also be done in a more effective way, like via email or other communication platforms you use, so all your coworkers can say if they have or not something worth discussing. You can also have some sort of topic pool, or post-it board, where you can put things you would like/need to tell the whole team. When a specific number of things are posted then a meeting could be scheduled, or if no things are posted then you know for sure there is no need of having the meeting.

  • Asking if anyone has something to tell is usually how we begin. Most of the time, there is not much to discuss, hence the awkward silence. I admit that one minute does not seem significant, but 5 more minutes are spent waiting for everybody to get here. I think it quickly adds up to a fair amount of time over a month or a year ;) The topic pool thing sounds cool, I'll definitely suggest it. Thanks. – Green Sep 22 '17 at 7:26
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If there's nothing to discuss, I don't see the point in having a meeting.

Once a day just for announcements seems overkill to me, but YMMV.

Maybe it's sufficient just to block the time slot for everyone and have the meeting only on demand.

  • Many people see such a meeting as a time to advertise issues. It's hard to guarantee that nobody has something to say, so the meeting will always occur. "Daily stand ups" are a part of some software development processes, and it sounds like this group is "just going through the motions" without really benefiting from the purpose of these meetings. I doubt that everyone there did nothing useful for anyone else, or did nothing that could negatively impact anyone else. They likely aren't supported to adopt the culture that goes with these meetings, but holding the meeting anyway. – Edwin Buck Sep 21 '17 at 18:23
  • @EdwinBuck I know what daily standups are for, but OP explained he has one regular standup with his team in the morning and then another one at noon with the whole company, which seems to have no information. The one at noon seems useless to me. – Simon Sep 21 '17 at 18:27
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    I am sure you do know what the stand ups are for, sorry if you thought I was trying to teach you that. That wasn't my intention. My musings were more that the company has moved to a place where they don't value the stand ups, because the stand ups aren't doing what they should be doing, along with the description of what they should be doing in case people really missed the purpose. – Edwin Buck Sep 21 '17 at 18:32
  • My comment shouldn't have sound so harsh, sorry for that. – Simon Sep 21 '17 at 19:14
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    Don't worry about it. Communicating across the Internet loses a lot of the message. I certainly didn't think of you as being harsh. I just saw that what I intended to say didn't come across the way I wanted it! :) – Edwin Buck Sep 21 '17 at 19:20

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