Published: November 09, 2022 • Updated: May 16, 2023 • 2 min read
I’ve been lucky to have worked with some great engineers, and one thing that they tend to do exceptionally well is reporting about their work at meetings.
Today I’d like to summarize what I think makes a great standup report. The goal is a report that’s informative, impromptu, and actionable.
I try to consistently bring the expected information to my standup report. Time is limited and valuable.
On some teams, this is “yesterday, today, blockers.” I often omit yesterday’s work; it’s the past and likely less relevant. Same with blockers, or obstacles in my path; I try to resolve them before the meeting and avoid situations where I’m frequently blocked.
Showing up and dropping a few “It’s done” is extra credit.
Show up with the right information and deliver it skillfully.
Engineers should get comfortable giving impromptu standup reports.
Showing up with notes for your report is a solid practice that I’m not trying to discourage. It’s helpful when you’re learning the ropes. But if you’re doing daily standups, across time zones, you’ll have days where you don’t get the opportunity to prepare.
Prepare for that moment by learning to wing it. The ability to describe complicated, shifting situations on the spot is a hallmark of a great engineer.
Standups are for decisions and problem solving, not research and coding.
A popular product management technique is “do, defer, delegate, delete”, and I think this is a fantastic approach to standups. If it’s a truly small, time-sensitive task, do it at standup. If it’s something that doesn’t need to be done now, defer it. If it’s work that would better be handled by a different person than the current assignee, delegate it. If it’s unimportant, delete it. Cultivate a bias toward action.
Aside from an occasional demo, I try (and sometimes fail, but I try) to keep my hands off the keyboard during standup. Typing to answer a question or investigate an unknown is tempting. But it often devolves into sidebars and yak-shaving (“sorry everyone, I just have to reset my staging password and then we can fix this”). Take it offline.
Learn to deliver reports that are informative, impromptu, and actionable, and you’ll be a consistently valuable contributor at standups.
What are your thoughts on standup reporting? Let me know!
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