Free Stand Up report - the Simplest and Easiest way to manage a distributed team

Posted by Andy Singleton on June 14, 2010 18:18:00 PM

I work with a lot of distributed teams here at Assembla, and I can't work without our online "Standup" report. This is a simple, low-tech form where users go every day to enter "What I did" "What I will do" and "Obstacles and needs". I can quickly browse through it and see who needs help and who is working on important tasks.

It's so useful, and so simple, that we think that EVERY distributed team should use it. If you work in a distributed agile team, you need it. If you work in a distributed development team, you need it, even if you are using competing ticketing and collaboration systems. If you are working on a corporate or government or NGO initiative from multiple offices, you probably need it. If you are organizing an election campaign, you probably need it. In order to make it possible for all of these deserving teams to use Standup, we are now offering Standup as a free package.

If you have been using this tool, you probably noticed that we changed the name of the tab last month from "Scrum" to the more generic "StandUp". Scrum teams do these reports every day in a meeting. That is one of the reasons that scrum teams like to be co-located. However, with Assembla's online Standup report, the team can get it done even faster by filling out an online form. It's simple, fast, and now free.

Why do a standup report?

  • It saves time for the person doing the reporting. The form takes only a minute to fill out, and it saves time in email, chat, or meetings.
  • It saves time for the manager, who can quickly browse and see what people are working on.
  • It gets stuff finished faster by focusing people on the most important tasks. After you read through the reports, you will see if people are working on things that are important, and you can ask them to work on higher priority tasks.
  • It gets problems resolved quickly, by flashing a little red "needs" sign from the people that have obstacles
  • It increases productivity. Studies show that the act of writing down a goal makes the writer more likely to achieve it.

This report format comes from a traditional "stand up" meeting in which everyone stands until the meeting is over. Standing is a little bit uncomfortable, so it encourages people to finish the meeting quickly. It's expensive to have a big group in the room if you are paying everyone, and they have other things to do, so you want to go finish. In the bubble ‘90s I ran an e-business development company, and we did a standup meeting every Monday. We used the did/will do/obstacles format with everyone standing, and this did indeed help us get through the meeting quickly. So, it's useful for coordinating any type of group, and not just a scrum team.

When we write the online report, we are sitting comfortably on our butts. If you're like me, you probably have your feet up on the desk with a keyboard in your lap and a nice cup of hot tea. It doesn't matter. This report is so simple that you will have a hard time spending more than 60 seconds on it.

Three steps to a productive team

  1. Invite team members
  2. As soon as they start work, in whatever time zone they work in, ask them to click the button in the upper right that says "Add/Enter your report". They fill out the simple online form. If they have an obstacle, they write about it there.
  3. At a glance, see what everyone is doing and eliminate roadblocks before they slow you down.
Optionally, use Assembla chat, Skype chat, or other conferencing to answer questions and get clarification.

ADDED BONUS: In tomorrow's release we upgrade the Standup tool to include "I am away" reports. If you are going to be away, post the "I am away" report in advance and it will be on the calendar to answer any questions from your colleagues.

The form....

The report ...

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About the author

Andy SingletonWorking on Continuous Agile and Accelerating Innovation, Assembla CEO and startup founder

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