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Why are we A/B testing asynchronous stand-ups?

By January 13, 2016 No Comments

As stated last year, we’ve recently decided to run a series of A/B tests on ourselves. Our first experiment is moving our strict, connected and in-person team stand-ups for a more flexible and asynchronous approach.

Why do we do stand-ups, and what are they?

In our industry, stand-ups are, in one way or another, a standard practice and usually how a team would start their day.

A team stand-up would kick off at the same time every day, and each participant would, one by one, lay out what he worked on yesterday, what he will be working on today and raise if he has any blockers in the way.

This is an excellent practice as it allows everyone to be in sync, and ensure that information and progress are shared quickly amongst the team.

Why do we want to change this?

As I said, in-person stand-ups are such a standard practice in our industry that, when we started growing the team, it was a no-brainer we had to do them and play by the same rules as other teams.

But, as we grew and evolved, we’ve established our own rules and laid out the foundations of how we wanted to grow as a company.

For example, as a remote first company we didn’t want to limit our team to a physical location.

It resulted in employing fantastic people outside of Bristol and even outside of the UK.

We also want to let internal teams and individuals manage their own time.

Some people in the team feel more productive during the late morning and afternoon period. Some (like me) feel more productive in the early morning/afternoon and are useless after 4 pm.

The issue with the traditional, everyone in the same room, stand-up started to appear quickly. Timezone differences meant that it was not fair for Julio to have the stand-up at 9:15 am UK Time.

It was also a waste of time to the early morning productive people since it would disrupt their morning, maybe when they were in the zone, or worse, keep them waiting for the stand-up to have finished before they would finally try to focus.

Lastly, for the late morning productive people, it would force them to be present in the stand-up, when they probably could have done with a slow morning before starting their work later than the rest of the team.

Combining all of this made us realise that we could (and probably should) try something different.

Instead of attempting to enforce rules the might be counter-productive, we’ve decided to embrace our own constraints.

How are we changing it then?

Since the beginning of the year, and for at least a month, we are changing the in-person standups for an asynchronous standup.

Now, each person is truly responsible for his schedule, based on weekly or bi-weekly goals discussed with the project manager at the beginning of each iteration.

We still have a stand-up, but it’s an asynchronous one. So people can choose when they want to start their day, and when to end it.

Our stand up room for the day

When a person is ready to start their day, we have a shared Google Docs document, and people can fill their entry with their goal for the day. (Google docs seemed the best tool for now, since it’s versatile enough, and allows real-time collaboration.)

If there are any blockers, they can either enter them on the document, and the project managers will help to resolve the issue, or they can ping people on our HipChat rooms.

What are we testing

We want to give back power to each person in the team. Power over his schedule, his goals and day-to-day time management.

The metrics we will be testing are:

Productivity

Currently, we are quite a productive team, but sometimes the downtimes are not used correctly. When someone is not working on a project for a couple of days, we feel that this time could be put to better use than it is at the moment.

Happiness

By letting people start and end the day on their own terms, are they feeling better at work? Do they use their new free time to do things like reading / going to the gym? But also, do they miss the day-to-day in-person interactions?

In for a penny, in for a pound

As I said, we will be testing this new schedule for a minimum of a month, and reflect on it at the end of January.

It’s only been a week and a half now, but so far we have already started to see emerging patterns and new behaviours which are incredibly encouraging.