Why check-ins are better than standup meetings

Check-ins are a new way to do status updates - they're quick and help keep everyone on the same page
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Most product, engineering, and design teams have daily standup meetings. Standup meetings are typically led by a scrum master or team leader with all the teammates assembled in a ring formation for 20 minutes.

In a standup meeting, each teammate typically lists down the following:
  1. What they worked on yesterday
  2. What they will be working on today
  3. Any blockers

Standup meetings typically take about 20 minutes and proceed in a circular fashion with every teammate getting their turn. In light of current times, standup meetings have largely become asynchronous and are carried out over Slack.

However, while Slack is great because communication happens asynchronously in a quick manner, a lot of the information captured from these standup meetings is lost in text-heavy reports. Moreover, with collaboration and communication being one of the biggest problems of remote work, it is extremely important that the information captured is tagged appropriately to weekly goals, objectives and projects so that there is less chances of mis-communication and everyone is in sync.

Following are some reasons why standup meetings are less than ideal and can be substituted by check-ins:

Standup meetings waste time

Prior to the pandemic, standup meetings were largely synchronous and while one person would talk at a time, other teammates would not be interested and would end up wasting their time. 20 minutes wasted per person gets converted to weeks per team and months for organizations - what could have been an update done asynchronously has been converted into a time-sucking unproductive meeting! This is even worse when it is the first thing in the morning as you start your day with a very unproductive effort which affects your outlook for the rest of the day.

Standup meeting context gets lost in reports

With asynchronous standup meetings, the information gets captured in text-heavy format in reports and is ignored later. Standup meetings should be lightweight both for the person giving the update and the person analyzing the update at a later time.

Neo solves this problem with check-ins that have appropriate flags to indicate the status of a task - "Blocked", "Need Feedback" etc. and tags corresponding to objectives and projects, which make the information very searchable and the entire team is in sync.

Standup meetings are not intelligent

Asynchronous standup meetings do not do a great job at keeping track of the "delta" since the last update. Hence, every morning you have to enter what you did yesterday, which feels like a boring chore at best and many productive hours wasted at worst! This also leads to teammates not completing standup reports and a lack of interest in the process.

In the case of a synchronous standup meeting, this is a lot worse with the scrum master or project manager coordinating between different teammates for status updates. Check-ins solve these problems by intelligently linking the plan for the day with tasks completed at the end of the day and asking you about tasks you were blocked on or needed feedback on. Check-ins also motivate you daily to do your best work 😎

Standups are often dominated by the loudest voice in the room

Often the loudest voice in the room dominates standup meetings and has a discussion about something they're working on with another person while the rest of the team stands there uninterested and wasting their time. A rule of standup meetings is that long discussions should take place outside the standup, but this rule is often disobeyed.

Check-ins prevent this from happening by giving every teammate an equal voice and keeping any comments that come up structured and on-point. Check-ins also allow for quick reactions and follow ups.
With all the above shortcomings, we may be remiss if we don't mention some notable advantages of standup meetings, especially in the context of remote work:

  1. Standup meetings are a great way to meet teammates either face to face or over Zoom. With remote work, it becomes all the more important to establish connections with your teammates to prevent feeling isolated or lonely.
  2. Standup meetings help establish a routine. Most workplaces have standup meetings at a certain time in the day and it is good to have a routine, especially with remote work.

However, both the advantages mentioned above can be achieved with check-ins - for increasing interactions, due to the time saved with check-ins, the team can instead have a face to face or Zoom game session where they can actually do something fun and use check-ins for productive status updates; as for establishing a routine, check-ins help establish a very productive routine as well, one that is actually joyful and significantly useful to the team at large.

To conclude, it is important to acknowledge the drawbacks of standup meetings, and why a change in the form of check-ins would make a team significantly more productive. Do check out Neo - a platform for asynchronous check-ins and collaboration for remote teams.