Are your daily standups an annoyance? An interruption from work that you hate? Do people leave with no clue as to what anyone’s doing?

At your next standup, pay close attention to the patterns of your team’s communication. If it sounds like this:

“I did some stuff yesterday, can’t remember exactly what. Today I’ll continue working more on it, or take care of whatever comes up. Oh btw, Johnny, can you forward me that email you said you would?”

Then you have a serious communication problem. Can you imagine presenting this kind of status to a client executive? They’d rightly fire you.

Allison Kraus may love it When You Say Nothing At All, not your team.

Allison Kraus - When You Say Nothing At All

For communication to be effective it needs to convey the right information to the right people at the right time. The key is mindfulness. The entire team needs to be paying attention. Of course you can’t mandate that - but what you can do is make the information relevant.

Here are some standards we see our high performing teams follow. Mind you, they still need to be reinforced from time to time… there is something in human nature that detests meetings and will fight it:

  • No cellphones or laptops
  • No chickens, just pigs
  • Don’t use ticket numbers - describe the feature/bug you’re working on in plain language
  • Each person aims to talk for about 60 seconds
  • Everyone is empowered to ask for more detail:
    • “Can you dive deeper into what you did?”
    • “Nice work with that fix. Is there anything the rest of the team should know not to do going forward?”
    • “How are you planning to implement that feature?”

I got the sixty-second rule from Cedric Yao. Sixty seconds is a LOT of time to fill each day with pertinent information. We found that it brings the right mix of conciseness and detail for standups.

Navy SEALs are trained to communicate in direct, terse and unambiguous language - it literally saves lives on the battlefield. Can better standups save your projects?