Alicia Diamond

Chief of Staff Blog

Actionable advice, tips, and musings from a 2x Chief of Staff

The all-important daily stand-up

Like David Cummings, I’m a huge believer in the power of daily stand-ups. I resisted them for about a year as I saw the teams around me adopt rigorous scrum methodologies, replete with silly names for meetings and for participants. It all seemed to be bit too much and I, unfairly, assumed it was a crutch for those managers who couldn’t handle keeping their team organized and on-task. And then I welcomed my fourth direct report. 

I adopted a system I called “scrum-lite” that revolved around a daily-standup, a whiteboard, and many many post-its. I was like a fish out of water managing my ballooning team, including a second layer below me, and I needed a system that would give me confidence in both our progress and direction. 

I’m happy to report that I got all of that AND so much more. A daily stand-up, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest people-management tools one can employ. Looking at your direct reports every morning, first thing, whether in person or over video, made a huge difference in my ability to manage my people. People, unlike resources/FTEs/heads or whatever other slightly derogatory term companies substitute, have emotions, bad days, personal tragedies, and strong interests outside the office. One of my favorite routines for our stand-up was an end-of-standup Friday morning “what are your plans this weekend” round. The team came alive as they learned about their peer's fears (yes, I admitted to the group that I was learning how to swim! In my thirties!) and interests (cooking, mountain biking, crafting, illegal urban woodworking on shared balconies). We got to know each other as people, not just as colleagues. In doing so, we learned each other's buttons, weaknesses, dreams, and motivations. We learned that one of our data analysts was incredibly creative and artistic, which led to an opportunity for her to lead a marketing campaign effort. 

I’m intrigued by the cadence David shares in his post and the impact a series of level-specific stand-ups would have on organizational alignment. I’ve never heard of this elsewhere, but I’d love to put it into action one day!

I’ve seen firsthand the power that a daily stand-up can have as a blunt tool for accountability. Volunteering to do something, within a certain timeframe, takes on a whole new meaning when you give yourself a day and have to report progress face-to-face the next morning. I’ve seen an ad hoc implementation like this lead to the rapid realization that the wrong leader was in charge of a given project. Better to know early on than be disappointed closer to the deadline.