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Why standups are overrated

Luke Szyrmer May 11, 2021 1176

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My name is Luke Szyrmer, and if you are new here, I am the author of the book Align Remotely and I help teams thrive and achieve more together when working remotely. Find out more at alignremotely.com. This is part 2 of the discussion with Thibaud Clement, co-founder and CEO of Loomly, a social media automation tool. We dive deep into the mechanics of being a remote first company from his perspective and what works well for them. For example, he and his team don’t like standups and they’ve come up with a better alternative they call a DASH.

Upon listening, you will discover:

  • Why standups are overrated and what Thibaud’s team does instead (and why)
  • How loomly prioritizes work and why they choose that approach
  • When loomly uses a synchronous video call, despite a heavy focus on async collaboration in text

About Thibaud Clément

Thibaud Clément is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Loomly. Together with his spouse and business partner, Noémie, Clément has launched four successful e-commerce, agency and technology businesses. A self-taught programmer, Clément initially developed Loomly’s collaborative marketing software as an in-house solution to help his team streamline digital content creation and publishing.

Encouraged by feedback from clients and peers, Loomly grew into a standalone entity in 2016. The distributed company, which has operated with a fully remote staff since its founding, currently serves over 9,000 marketing teams worldwide, consistently achieving a triple-digit annual revenue growth rate.

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    Why standups are overrated
    Luke Szyrmer


Let’s slightly change directions. You’ve been a remote first company from the beginning. So I’m sure you’ve got a lot of experience and advice and that kind of thing. Is there anything about remote that you think is commonly repeated, especially nowadays that you think is actually completely wrong?

Interestingly, yeah, so yes, probably I don’t know if we do everything right. I wouldn’t say so, but we try to get better every day. And I believe probably that the number one seeing is that we saw in the past, again, maybe I need to answer your question in two steps.

First is what are we still in the past when you still had the choice to work remotely? When it was not like remote or everyone? It was either remote or office. It was more like a stance than, anything else. And we decided to work remotely. What we saw is that it was very important for a remote team to work successfully.

Hiring right for remote

One of the most important thing was actually probably hiring and hiring right because remote may not be for everyone, again regardless of what we see these days. But and so what we figured is that even before hiring someone, what was extremely important was to think about, what your culture is, what your conventions are, what your expectations, because if you get that wrong or if you just don’t think about it, then you may hire someone who is extremely talented.

But who’s not going to strive in your context, in the context of your company because maybe that’s not the way they work. , in our team, I’m not ashamed to say that, we were lucky to work with brilliant people, but who, for instance were people who are happier.

In an office setting because, they could interact more frequently in-person with other colleagues and who needed this kind of office life. And I don’t blame anyone for that. It’s just, it’s not what we do. And so once we realize that, then we know we focused on people who are actually actively looking for that.

And this is very important because 90 or 95% of the work that we do at lonely happens asynchronously in writing outside of meetings, we have very few meetings for a few calls and the way it works is everything’s happens in writing. So if you are comfortable with that, if you’re comfortable writing a lot, explaining your ideas in a concise story and relevant in, in, in six way in writing, then you will be very happy.

Yeah, absolutely. But if you are someone who needs, to have a lot of human interactions and seeing your colleagues and speaking with your own voice to your colleagues is what matters the most in your day. Then you may not be happy at Lummi regardless of how competent you are at your job in terms of hard skills.

So I would say these would be, the first, the very first thing and it was before the pandemic, so hiring rights and to hire rights, you have to define what your character is, what your expectations are. The second part of my question would be maybe post pandemic and during, or during pandemic.

But yes, what is really important is how you keep a sense of cohesion in your team and how, you avoid like double standards, especially if there are people who some may work in the office, some may work remotely.

How to get remote culture to “work”

That’s another thing that’s new, we’re starting to see. And so the question is, again, how do you how do we implement the right workflows that make sure that, the culture still works and that people are still, working as a team. And so there are a couple of things that are in that matters as matter for that at least at work for us, I don’t know, for different companies, I guess it may be different, but for us, the importance of writing when you work asynchronously, when you work remotely some information may be shared over the phone over zoom, and some information may be shared over email. Just in an office where some information may be shared at the water cooler. What is important is that any kind of information that is central and critical for the team should somehow be in writing in some kind of centralized place that everyone has access to.

This is extremely important because if you don’t have that, then you know, this creates a lot of frustration because some people will say, Oh, I don’t understand. I was not aware of that, or, I was working on this and if I had known, maybe I would have done it differently and why was not in why wasn’t I invited into this meeting and this kind of thing.

The way we do that lonely is that, everything happens in GitHub for us because what we do is we build the product. So we work a lot with get hub. And so we have tickets we have PRS, we have all of these things and the way we work is that anything that is said in an email, or let me say it in a zoom call or a phone call or even on Slack in the chat, if it is critical for the team, it is restated in get hub.

And we find ourselves very frequently saying as discussed on Slack, as discussed on zoom we decided to do this and that so that anyone who needs to interact with any specific project is always able to have a track record of whatever happened before and can refer to that and understand the context.

So having this kind of centralized asynchronous communication, I believe is extremely important. Otherwise there will be a double standard out of people who maybe talk to each other and people who don’t there will be a lot of misinformation and a lot of lost productivity wasted.

Deciding on remote team priorities

If you have everything and get I’m, I assume you’re talking also about like the Wiki functionality and the documentation that it has also not just the code, if you have everything there, how do you, decide priorities? Is that something that you do? Is it something that people come to you with things? Cause the priorities piece, is the most interesting one for me.

The first thing that you have to understand, and I believe it’s, I don’t want to say it’s a trademark of loneliness, but I want to say it’s in the DNA of loomly.

Going back to the first days when we started the platform, I was building the platform and my who’s Noemi was the first user and she was, really, truly on the other side of the desk. And I was, pushing the comments. She would try anything, any update, anything new, and she would give me feedback. And then, I would, improve, then write more code, push the update, and she would try, and we will start this all over again.

As we grew from those two persons to serving Nance at 9,000 marketing teams, it was very important for us to, keep this feedback loop because we believe that, customer feedback is gold.

And to, I like to joke about the fact that, I’m not a visionary, I’m just a good listener. I’m just, listening to what my customers say. When they tell me there was a bug to fix or that we can improve the UX in such and such way or when they want a new feature.

Probably the smartest thing we can do is just shut up and listen. As Paul Graham say, you want to make sure that you build something that people want and they believe the best way to. Make something that people wanted actually to listen to what they want. So this is, very important because we have structured many processes inside lonely to be very attentive to that feedback we speak with over 250 customers, every single day being, it in our chats over email, on social media and. All of that, mainly comes from our customer success team or directly through me because every single user has my direct email address and can send me an email. So we take that. And all of that is basically saved into a document that maybe that’s the exception. It’s not on GitHub. It’s a Google doc.

And so we have all the features that are requested and everything that we need to fix. And, basically the roadmap and we update the number of requests for each item. And so from there, we have a very clear list of priorities, whatever gets requested the most it usually gets handled first.

GitHub as a single source of truth for everyone (not just developers)

So once we have that, then, that these kind of leading me to the second part of my answer is that inside get hub, we use GitHub projects You can just think of it as a customized version for us of Kanban. And we just take tickets that correspond to each action item on the roadmap, and then we just prioritize them accordingly inside GitHub.

And that kind of leads me to the wrap-up of my answer, which is that everyone in the room, the team actually has access to get help and works on get hub, not only the engineering team, but also the customer success team, because this is where all the knowledge is.

Interesting. Interesting. We , went down a product rabbit hole, but yeah, we’re just like, we are of the company. I’m always happy to talk about that as well.

Not big fans of standups

So if you have everything in writing, What do you think of operational meetings like agile stand-ups?

I’m going to say something that is a pretty controversial, I hope I wouldn’t make too many enemies. We are not in the room with him. It’s not only me. We are not big fans of stand up meetings. We don’t do them. Because in of meeting there is the word meeting and we are not sure, this is the best use of our time. What do we do instead is that we have on Slack, we have this dedicated channel where every morning, whenever you start your day, sometimes it’s later in the day because you forgot you do what we call your dash.

What Loomly use instead of a standups

Dash stands for daily asynchronous stand up. How D and so basically it just, you just say, Hey, good morning to the, I’m going to work on this and that. Yeah, and that’s it. And to us, it feels the same purpose as a standup meeting where everyone has to login and, or actually stand up in a remote team, it will be it would be cause we’re more Slack.

And you just say that and I do it, everyone in the team does it. we have an understanding and some knowledge of what’s going on in the team and in the company. What does that matter to us is that we do it all at the same time on video.

Also, we have team members from the West coast of the U S all the way to Europe so that, not probably work out very well. Defaulting to asynchronous communication, I would say this is probably a best practice. My conclusion from that is that if you switched to remote maybe trying to force synchronous communication is probably not the best way to go because it may be, it may introduce a lot of fatigue for everyone, a lot of rigidity, and it would be counter productive because you may be trying to import some processes and practices from in-office workflows into a remote collaboration.

Asynchronous standups, time zones, and Slack bots

Yeah. I’ve used something similar in the past, like a Slack bot, which kind of asked people. And I think one of the things that I didn’t quite get my head around was how to deal with the time zone aspect of it. Where, in my particular case, I think the spread on the team was like 12, 12, 13 times zones.

So it was quite significant. So if we had everybody do it in their morning, it’s basically meant that it would happen throughout the day. And it was just hard to get. And so you so for you personally, when you see that they’re all almost like real-time updates, but it’s just on a daily cadence.

Yeah, exactly. So for instance, you, I’m in I’m in central time. And so basically, I have the first person in the team is usually the person in post-surgical who wakes up before me. And then, you know what, I wake up, I would see her dash, I would see what she is saying and working on today, then that would probably do mine.

And then, the team on the West coast of the U S would do that. It’s fine. Again, to me, what adds value is getting the information of roughly what’s going on in the company today whether I have this information, first thing in the morning from everyone, or whether I have it’s road the day when these team members actually start working to me, doesn’t make a big difference.

What matters is that I have this information and usually yes, it coincides with when they start their day. And so when the work is actually going to be done.

Team dynamics on standups

So I think another aspect of good stand-ups if they’re done well, is that people interact with each other about how they can help each other out? Does that happen with your dashes or is it or is it more just them updating you as to what’s going on for the day?

So it’s not them updating me. It’s everyone updating everyone, but the dash is only, like it’s only information being put into the dash single view. That’s like almost a log.

Whenever someone let’s say an engineer is working on something and they need help or they see that another engineer is getting to work on another part of the product that may be conflicting with it. Then what they will usually do is they will. Go to a private channel and this gets that on their own.

So the dash is not where the interactions happen with the dash is where interaction may interactions may be sparked.

The exception to not using video at Loomly

So in terms of remote work, what do you think works really well or people should start doing more of in terms of remote teamwork?

Every month, once a month, we have an all team meeting. It’s this time is in video and it’s the exception to the rule.

And we are all here. And so what we do is we look at the metrics. We look at, what we have achieved in terms of Product development in terms of marketing and customer success improvements any kind of, hard topic. And sometimes we have a show and tell where, someone from the team is explaining to everyone else again, in video as a demo or something cooler, they have works on, it can be like a new, big product feature.

It could be something on the dev ops side. It could be something with automation, campaigns, these kind of things. And this is actually, a very important I would say practice because we are all, working on our own things. We were very focused on our tasks.

We interact very well, but this is the moment where we can see the results of what we have been doing for the past four to five weeks. And It’s usually a good opportunity to celebrate any kind of victories that we may have had be like a revenue milestone, he, new integration like a great press release or something like that.

This is usually like a celebratory moment. It’s also a good way to give credit to everyone in the team. So usually, we say, Hey, this person has done that. It’s really cool. This person has done that. It’s really cool. And this kind of things that, it’s a kind of a way again, to celebrate everything we’ve been doing.

And also it’s a very strategic moment because whenever, we’re Deciding on a cab or general direction for the company. This is when we would be doing that. And it makes always a lot of sense because again, we just reviewed everything that we have done and the metrics that we have achieved and this kind of thing.

I would say this is a very good practice for us because it’s the opportunity to gather as a team look back at what we’ve done and look forward to what we’re going to do. So I would encourage that because if you are. If your team is distributed and everyone is working on their own seeing it may be easy to lose a sense of , where we are all going and what, unites us.

And so this is very important, but there are many other ways to do it. And and that could be more for more or less formal. outside of the pandemic, I would say that the other thing that we were doing and that we are looking forward to doing again is that once every quarter we would fly everyone into the same place we’d California or somewhere else so that, we could spend two or three days together.

Talking about things other than work and just, like bonding and having fun and again, celebrating whatever we had achieved. Of course this is something that we had to put on pose for now. But we are really looking forward to doing again.

So that’s interesting once a quarter that’s quite frequent. That’s great.

Getting in touch with Thibauld

How could people find out more about you or lonely? Where should people look to find out more?

You can go to romney.com and you will learn to know about everything we do. You can sign up for your 15 day free trial, no credit card required unlimited features.

It’s a true free trial so that you can see the product for yourself and see if it’s a good fit for you or not. And then, otherwise you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter and I’m always happy to connect and make new friends.

Great. Thank you very much.

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