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Goal-oriented stand-ups

Sunny Mistry
Published in
3 min readMar 8, 2022


Daily stand-ups can be the most important meeting we have all day. They help everyone stay aware of the team’s progress, surface blockers, and set the tone for the day. But the way we’ve been conducting stand-ups might not be conducive to reaping those benefits.

A Typical stand-up

On my team at Policygenius, our stand-ups have always followed this general approach:

  1. Each person informs the team of what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and if there are any issues blocking them
  2. The team asks any questions they might have
  3. There is room at the end for general announcements and “administrivia”

A typical description of what someone did yesterday usually involves a brief, high-level overview on the progress of their ticket and all the different meetings they attended (which may or may not be related to the sprint). It is common for a single ticket to be worked on for multiple days. As a result, the stand-up update each day is more or less the same:

“Yesterday I went to these meetings and worked on my ticket. Today I’m going to these meetings and continuing to work on my ticket.”

Since the engineer is still making some progress towards completion each day, it is easy for them to say that they aren’t facing any blockers. But when multiple people give this type of update every day, it is difficult to get a sense of where the team is with respect to completing their sprint goals.

Goal-oriented stand-ups

In an effort to gain more visibility into how we are trending towards our goal throughout the sprint, we shifted towards a more goal-oriented stand-up. Instead of going round-robin, we have organic conversations focusing entirely on how we are doing with respect to the sprint goal. The key here is to kick-off standup with open-ended questions such as:

  • “What’s the status of this project?”
  • “There are a number of tickets in code review, does anyone feel blocked?”
  • “Are there any updates on discovery so far?”

People will naturally gravitate towards collaborative discussions about how their current work is impacting the team hitting their goal. Instead of several independent updates, we collectively create a single update regarding our progress as a team. This also helps to shift our approach away from an “I” mentality and towards a “we” mentality, producing better team cohesion.

Goal-oriented stand-ups also improve team collaboration. Usually, when someone has finished their current ticket, the next thing they do is pick up the ticket at the top of the development queue. When we surface sprint goal impediments at standup, we encourage the team to think about how they can help unblock their teammates before grabbing something new. This has changed how we work together to build features by facilitating a more flexible, efficient, and collaborative working style.

“Hackathon” style workflow

During hackathons, everyone on a team is responsible for a different part of building a feature. The structure and processes of building features are much looser during hackathons than during normal sprints. The time constraint forces the team to think about how they can best allocate their resources to develop faster. If someone can’t get to a certain feature or is blocked, it is easy for that person to offload the work to someone who has capacity.

We’ve found that goal-oriented stand-ups foster that same kind of work style. For example, imagine someone is building a vertically sliced feature containing UI, backend, and API changes. If they know their day is full of meetings and another teammate is looking to pick up another ticket, the two engineers can coordinate on delivering the various parts of the feature.

We have seen a few different benefits to this kind of approach:

  • More effective and productive stand-ups
  • Increased collaboration
  • Better understanding of the context and implementation of features
  • Decreased feature development time
  • More consistent achievement of sprint goals
  • Higher impact for our end users

With all of these benefits and without the drawbacks of a traditional round robin standup approach, we have been able to increase our team’s productivity and engagement. I don’t think we’ll ever go back!

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