Why you should skip your standup meeting today

Jessamyn Edwards
Feb 6, 2017 · 3 min read
Design something instead

While it’s tempting to get over-involved in the minutiae of backlog grooming, sprint planning, story points, triage meetings and stand-ups, my advice is to consider these activities non-mandatory. It is very easy to fall into the trap of micro-managing your developers and testers when they are working on your stories. The problem is that instead of spending time where you really need to, you get sucked into the all-consuming world of scrum, and don’t spend the hours designing or researching. Design takes time. It’s not easily done in 15-minute increments between other people’s meetings. If you don’t set aside the hours during your workday to research and design, you’ll end up bringing home your work at night and on the weekends to finish, and burn yourself out.

You will probably be a minority on your team, outnumbered by developers and engineers. It is important to remember that only you bring the talent and expertise of a designer or researcher. While your team members may want to contribute ideas or try to take on design decisions themselves, they are no substitute for your very important role. For that reason, you must remember that your time is valuable, and your opinion should be weighed more heavily than other members of your team when it comes to the design and behavior of your product. You should be the one making the recommendation when a design is in dispute. In order to cultivate that credibility, it is in your best interest to prioritize your design and research work over all else.

Let me give you an example of a typical calendar day for myself, and how I overcome this problem. I support two scrum teams, both of whom meet regularly.

10:15–10:30 am: Standup 1

10:30–10:45 am: Standup 2 (frequently goes over until 11 am)

1:00–3:00 pm: Sprint closeout and planning

On a day like this, I’m likely to be in meetings for half the day. Frequent interruptions mean that I’ll probably use the space before and between meetings to answer emails and respond to requests instead of dive into deep design work. I’m most likely able to start working uninterrupted at 3:30 pm. This leaves me an hour and a half in the workday, and I’m unlikely to finish my work, which means that it will carry over into the next day where I’ll have the same problem again, just with different meetings.

So instead, I’m going to make my day look like this

9:30 am–12:00 pm: Work on a research findings deck

1:00–3:00 pm: Sprint closeout and planning

Now I can show up to the team meeting and give a demo of the research and design I’ve been doing to the team. I can save everyone time because I can use 10–20 minutes of meeting time that’s already scheduled so I don’t have to book a separate meeting. Skipping standup buys me back that time plus the time lost switching context before and after the meeting.

Take your work and time seriously and others will too. If the team sees that you’re putting in the hours doing customer research and design, they won’t mind that you aren’t at every scrum meeting. You’ll save yourself the mental overhead of absorbing too much detail about the development work, and bring real value to your team by dedicating yourself to the work of user experience.

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