Asynchronous daily standup: 10 things you need to know
Asynchronous daily standups promise speed and efficiency. But that's not always the outcome. Here are 10 things to consider before going all-in on asynchronous daily standups.
January 27, 2023
As a Product Manager or Tech Lead, a big part of your job is to enable the team to work more effectively and efficiently. A lot of Product Managers and Team Leads I talk to have considered (or tried) asynchronous daily standup to boost the efficiency and productivity of their teams. On paper, this idea makes total sense. If everyone shares updates on Slack, then we can skip the daily standup meeting. And skipping a meeting is always more efficient right? The answer is, not always. But before I share the cons of asynchronous daily standup, it's important to understand what an asynchronous daily standup is.
But first, what is an asynchronous daily standup?
An asynchronous daily standup is when team members update each other on their progress and plans in a written format, rather than verbally in real-time. This allows team members to participate at a time that works best for them, and can be useful for teams that are geographically dispersed or have members working in different time zones. The updates are often posted in a shared document (like Notion or Google Docs) or messaging platform (like Slack or Teams), and includes information like "What did you work on yesterday?" "What are you working on today" and "Are there any blockers?"
10 things to consider before moving to asynchronous daily standup
1. The team may not read each other's check-ins:
With asynchronous daily standup, the approach relies 100% on reading each other's check-ins. And the reality is that most people won't do this.
Let's say there are 10 people on your team. And everyone shares a Tweet-length update on what they did yesterday and what they did today. That's a 1,000-1,500 word document or thread every day. It's very difficult to ensure that the team reads this. Which means your standup quickly becomes noise instead of signal.
2. If the team doesn't read check-ins, quality suffers
The team quickly realizes that no one is reading the check-ins so the quality of information provided suffers. This makes it difficult to get a clear picture of what the team is working on. Product Managers and Tech Leads must invest time reading the information, then spend additional time asking for clarification.
3. The information shared becomes repetitive
The most noticeable impact to quality is that team members provide repetitive information. "I'm still working on this ticket" day after day, instead of explaining what has changed or progressed and whether or not the work is on track. It can become hard to identify new developments or progress amongst all the repetitive information.
4. Progress and risk is hard to spot
With asynchronous daily standup, it can become very difficult to get a clear picture of what the whole team was working on or how you are progressing toward your goal. The Tech Lead or Product Manager who is ultimately accountable for releases has to spend a lot of time piecing together information from different check-ins to understand what is going on.
5. The check-in is often skipped
With asynchronous standup, the team becomes aware that no one is reading the updates so they often skip the check-in. The Tech Lead or Product Manager has to follow-up directly with any one who skips to get an idea of progress or blockers.
6. Feedback will be delayed
With async standup, the team can post a check-in at any time. They can also respond to their team at any time, which means feedback gets delayed. This slows down decisions and collaboration.
7. Flow time is interrupted
With async standup, check-ins from the team come in throughout the day, which means flow time gets disrupted. Managers feel pressured to read all check-ins and feedback in real time so they can support each person, but the constant stream makes it hard for them to focus.
8. Ultimately, more time consuming
Despite the convenience of not having to coordinate schedules, reading async check-ins and tracking feedback can be more time consuming than a 15-minute live standup would have been. Manager spend a lot of time sifting through information and asking for clarification, which is not efficient.
9. Trust and connection degrades
For many people, their daily standup is the only face to face time they get with the whole team. When switching to asynchronous daily standup, it can be harder to build a sense of trust and connection. Without the daily face-to-face interaction, relationships didn't feel as personal and managers find it harder to get a read on how someone is doing emotionally.
10. Live standups are more fun
Face to face interaction (even on a video call) provides a sense of camaraderie and allows people to share about their day and build personal connection with each other. This is not easily replicated asynchronously.
4 tips to implement a good asynchronous daily standup
The point of this article is to help you set realistic expectations before going all-in on asynchronous daily standup. The promises are awesome. But the reality is that it takes work to make it work. Here are 5 tips to implement a good asynchronous daily standup.
Submit your check-in by the same time every day
Everyone must commit to quality input
Everyone must commit to read and reply quickly
Retro your asynchronous standup early and often
Speak up if you are not getting valuable information
Try a hybrid solution
Tools like Spinach.io support both live and async standup so you can share updates in Slack a few days a week without losing context or momentum in your live standup