Providing visibility into your work is one of the most underrated developer soft skills. Coworkers are often too busy to keep track of what’s going on with engineering work, even if it’s their job to know what’s going on with engineering work. It’s generally not out of malice or lack of interest, but a lack of time and energy to chase down every issue or conversation thread. And to be fair, engineering is an opaque process where we trick the rocks inside a computer to act like a business.
Standups are a great tool for sharing visibility. Unfortunately, not everyone loves standups. I’ve personally experienced some extremely toxic scrum master situations. Impersonal bots can have the same effect. A daily status report can feel like micromangement leading to a loss of autonomy. Also, that visibility into your work evaporates after attendees leave the call.
For the past four or five years, I’ve been practicing an alternative to daily standups. Rather than waiting for people to confront you, I find it better to proactively share your progress in a brief bulleted list1 in a public channel (of appropriate level). That’s the secret: share without being asked. The template has evolved a bit over the years, but here’s what it looks like now:
💪 **Progress** - Fixed something project#123 - Added something project#234 - Documented something 😖 **Regressions** - Found bug on something project#345 🧪 **Prototypes** - Experimented with new feature codepen.io/123 💬 **To Discuss** - Blocked on something project#456 📆 **This Week** - Work on new feature project#567 - Out of office on Friday
That’s a … uh … standup?
Yeah. It’s basically a standup in newsletter form. It could be the years working in a Japanese office talking, but I don’t hate standups. They are great for mind-melding. But, as I’ve experienced, not everyone thrives in standups. But the sharing part is valuable, I try to keep doing the sharing part.
I’ve done this in solo contexts, team contexts, and external client-facing contexts and no one hates it. No one says, “God, Dave, I wish you’d quit summarizing what’s going on.” No one asks for it, I just post it. People —especially those that pay you— enjoy seeing progress made and you (or your team) can avoid a lot of workplace mistrust issues by broadcasting a short progress report.
Consistency helps. Any weekday works but I’ve found posting on Monday mornings provides a nice recap of last week’s progress and sets a baseline for expectations in the upcoming week. It’s also a good opportunity to publicly celebrate specific people or any team wins as well.
Thus sums up my entire software development philosophy: Proactively communicate as succinctly as possible what you’re working on, what problems you ran into, and what you’re working on next.
The bulleted list part is maybe the most important part. ↩