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We have our daily stand-up meeting at 8:45 while the workday starts at 8:30. Even with the 15 minutes slack people keep coming too late, on a regular basis. This results in our meetings being small, incomplete, inefficient and sometimes even completely useless.

We have tried to have people bring fruit for the team on the next day, but this didn't work as we'd be having multiple breakfasts every day (and after a while they didn't even bother to bring any anymore).

We have been thinking of imposing a fine, but we find solutions like that quite childish.

How do you handle regular latecomers at stand up meetings?

What worked - and what didn't?

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closed as off topic by Walter, Jonathan Khoo, maple_shaft, ChrisF Sep 9 '11 at 15:00

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How is this even remotely on-topic? –  Cyclops Sep 9 '11 at 12:57
This would be perfect for -area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/30887/professional-matters - Please follow contribute we have far to many of these questions get closed that people can use answers too. –  Chad Sep 9 '11 at 16:44

17 Answers 17

up vote 48 down vote accepted

To get this out of the way ahead: I consider "15mins of slack" before a meeting not enough. When I come to work, I have to read mail and look at what I have done yesterday in order to know what it was, so I can tell the others. Others will need to have had a cup coffee before being able to start thinking straight. Where I worked we usually had at least 30mins, sometimes even more.

With these preliminaries out of the way: I guess at the very heart your problem is simply that you are mixing two different issues:

  1. When are employees expected to be at work and how hard this rule is enforced?
  2. When should your meeting be?

If the meeting is the only reason you keep pestering your devs for about being late, they will simply start to consider the meeting an annoying task causing them lots of trouble - something you probably wouldn't want.

If you have a hard rule for your devs to be at work by 8:30am, enforce that with all your might, never mind the meeting. Once you've done that, the meeting shouldn't be a problem anymore. If, OTOH, you wouldn't mind your devs to have a bit of flexibility, discuss the issue with them in order to settle on a latest time to arrive for everybody, add some "slack" to grab a coffee, read mail, and remember yesterday, and schedule the meeting at the appropriate time after that.

If people still come to work too late even after that, try to find out why. Are they simply unable to adhere to even a flexible schedule? Do they not care? Are they fed up because the company treats them badly in some other respect? Do they have serious problems preventing them from being on time every day? How to deal with this depends on what's the answers to these questions. (For example, if they have trouble commuting, maybe the company could do something to encourage them to move? OTOH, if they simply don't care, maybe you wouldn't want them in your team anyway?)

If you want an opinion from me as to whether to enforce a strict starting time or whether to allow flexibility: Would you expect your devs to leave at the same time every day, abandoning their work at the exact minute, regardless of what they are doing? I seriously doubt that. However, if a company expects them to finish whatever they are doing in the evening before they leave for home, why would a company expect them to not to do this at home, too, before they leave for work?

My experience with a daily standup meeting from when I worked in an XP team: We had flexible hours, with 10am the latest time one should arrive (if you came later, you were expected to either have announced it the day before or, if something happened in the morning, call at work and give a reasonable excuse), and the meeting was held simply when everybody had arrived and had time to settle in, usually before 11am.

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Thanks, this is great and objective advice! –  Wesley van Opdorp Sep 9 '11 at 11:45
If someone is consistently late, why? Punishments for minor infractions of any kind wind up making you look like a stickler for the rules. What you need instead is for the culture to change, and for everyone on the team to care enough that they bring the others up around them. If that still doesn't work, you need to speak to the folks individually, and dig to the bottom of why they either don't show up on time, or don't care to show up on time, and deal with that issue instead. I.E. treat the problem, not the symptom. –  jefflunt Sep 9 '11 at 13:46
@Chad: No, that's not the answer. If you're setting my work hours and my schedule within them, it's not my responsibility to come in early to make it work. You're setting the times, it's your responsibility to make them workable. If you're going to make and enforce decisions, accept responsibility for them and their consequences. –  David Thornley Sep 9 '11 at 14:21
@Chad: I'm not discussing whether I need 15mins or 30mins. (I don't drink coffee, so I find myself ready much earlier than the average dev. :)) It's my general observation that, for everybody involved and in the long run, 30mins work better. –  sbi Sep 9 '11 at 15:55
@StevenV: Fine for you. However, most devs don't do that, and when you need to collaborate with them, giving them a few minutes is simpler than constantly haggling over their way of doing their work. –  sbi Sep 9 '11 at 15:58

I have an idea... How about moving the meeting to a more sane time?

See my answer here on a related question.

Why on earth would you have strict working hours for programmers?

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exactly ... meetings no earlier than 10am –  Raffael Sep 9 '11 at 7:56
I don't get it. If a company schedules a daily, obligatory meeting for 8:30 am then there's no excuse for being late. People gotta be there at 8:30am. This is not debatable. What kind of practice is this? Everyone can do as he pleases? –  Falcon Sep 9 '11 at 10:27
@littleadv, Why do you feel because you are a developer that you are special and the rules don't apply to you equally as well? Don't be a primadonna and either play by the rules or GTFO. –  maple_shaft Sep 9 '11 at 11:28
@Falcon: Whether it is reasonable to expect creative workers to be at their desk at a certain time five days a week is an interesting question, but enforcing this has little to do with holding a meeting. (See my answer.) But as to why it might not be reasonable: If I'm a cashier at a shop, I can hand over to the guy after me between any two customers, leaving my job on time to the minute. If I'm an engineer, the company will expect me to wait until I have finished a thought, ran a test, or need a creative break, before I leave. I expect the same leeway from the company in the morning. –  sbi Sep 9 '11 at 13:04
@littleadv: IME not having any fixed working hours at all doesn't work well. Starting with a reasonable project size, good software is made from good communication to a huge percentage. You need to give developers the opportunity to communicate. If some come at 7:00 and leave at 4:30, while others come at 2:00pm and leave late in the night, there is very little time to do that. But there's lots of room between a hard time and no time at all. I'm for a middle-ground: Some flexibility, but a guaranteed and long enough stretch of time for everyone to be able to collaborate. –  sbi Sep 9 '11 at 13:12

We have our daily scrum at 11.45 AM. This way everybody has arrived, even with unpredictable traffic, ... It doesn't matter at which time of the day you place it for having a "full day" between each daily scrum, as long as you keep it on the same hour.

Another positive side effect of placing it at 11.45AM is that meetings don't overrun to e.g. 1h since people want to go eat at 12-12.30.

Finally you can have a tip jar in which people have to put e.g. 1$ if they show up late or don't show up at all (without a good reason like a vacation day). Use this money to do something fun (pizza, evening out, ...) with the team at the end of the sprint. This will gently force people to come to the daily sprint. If people keep buying themself out of the meeting, you don't want them on your team anyway.

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+1 for "If people keep buying themself out of the meeting, you don't want them on your team anyway." That's a very good point. –  sbi Sep 9 '11 at 9:05
But if they keep buying out of the meeting, they might just want to get you get better pizza! :P –  Trezoid Sep 9 '11 at 10:39

Giving fruits or punishment will only work short term (if it ever work).

I suggest to do a one 2 one meeting with every team member that arrive late and ask why.

  • Maybe the meeting has been imposed to the team without prior consultation? (this is the most common mistake)

  • Maybe the meeting is held poorly, or used (or perceived) as a productivity control meeting?

  • Maybe there is a more deep problem within the team that makes such "collaboration" meeting painful for some members?

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Look at inherent motivations rather than adding extrinsics

Why don't these people come to the meetings? What were they doing instead? Either they really want to, but for some reason they can't, or they don't really actually want to come.

If they do honestly very much want to come but they're always late, there is probably some fairly mechanical reason why they're late, perhaps to do with their commute (they have to take children to school? there are few trains?) and this could be easily solved by rescheduling. Or perhaps it's their work practices: they look at mail before the meeting and get distracted, and that too could be easily solved by just drinking coffee away from the computer in the meeting room before it kicks off.

On the other hand, perhaps some developers don't honestly find the meetings useful, and that's a great chance to reconsider the agenda and existence of the meetings. Find out what they need to know to do their job, what they find useful, what they find boring. If the meeting is useful to the manager but not very useful to the developers perhaps you should change to having short daily one-on-ones. If they like to be aware what's going on but they resent the time taken, perhaps you can use some alternative form.

Strategies based on token punishment or humiliation for being late sound like a good way to make sure the bodies are present and the souls are absent. (Unless the whole team really supports the idea, including the "offenders.")

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I'm astonished by the attitude most people here have.

If there's an obligatory, daily meeting at 8:30am, then you've got to be there every morning at 8:30am. Why should everyone do as he pleases? If 8:30 am is too early, then schedule it a bit later (here in Germany 8:30 am is a totally adequate time). No discussions, no excuses (exceptions prove the rule).

Not being there cannot be excused. If people come late, then I as a manager would talk to them and remind them of the importance of the meeting. If they come late or don't attend the meeting repeatedly, well, that's a minus on their yearly bonus (please note that this can be compensated by other factors).

I usually do everything to have a good team spirit and to keep the morale up, I even help employees with their personal problems and they are treated well. But not attending an obligatory meeting is just one thing: disrespectful. It's disrespect towards the whole team and thus unacceptable. It shows that the employee doesn't care about the company's rythm, to which he has to adapt.

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@Mark Trapp: So you simple removed all the comments instead of moving them to the chat (or wherever you think it belongs to)??? How would you convince us that it was all discussion and no clarification there??? –  maaartinus Sep 9 '11 at 22:14

First, is the meeting accomplishing anything or do team members view it as a waste of their time? If you're having a meeting just have a meeting because that's what's required to call yourself an Agile/Scrum team then you may be falling into the realm of cargo cult Agile.

Next, is the meeting a blame distribution and/or gripe session rather than something productive? If it's a miserable experience for the team it's no wonder they try to duck out of it. Taking the approach of the beatings will continue until morale improves won't help things.

If there aren't internal reasons that people aren't making the meeting, then consider the possible external ones. For example, where I live traffic is always heavy and very unpredictable. It's foolish to try to hold daily meetings prior to about 9:30 AM because at least one morning somebody is going to be late due to an accident. Another thing to consider are people who have family obligations like dropping kids off at school or daycare. They may not have a flexible home schedule. If the person(s) in question are otherwise productive then it may help reduce their stress and team stress by taking this into account in scheduling the meeting.

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You really need to read the book Why Work Sucks, and How to Fix it. It describes the concepts behind a Results-Only Work Environment, and why those meetings you think are vital - may not be.

ROWE means a:

Results Only Work Environment is a human resource management strategy co-created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler wherein employees are paid for results (output) rather than the number of hours worked.

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Regular office hours are 9am to 5pm. Starting at 8:30 is not at all regular.

Also, remember that some people, especially younger adults, have a different brain chemistry that makes it very difficult for them to maintain a sleep-early, rise-early cycle, as opposed to a sleep-late rise-late cycle. You can't fine people and make them change their brains. In fact, there's pretty much nothing you can do in this situation except change the time.

Secondly, I'd really question the need to hold the meeting at the start of the day. Holding it when everyone has only just woken up sounds like a plan for things to go wrong, even if everyone makes it on time, they'll be plenty tired enough to do something dumb. If your employees want to meet later as a group, then you'd need a pretty good reason to make them meet earlier.

Hold it in the middle of the day, and tell anyone who arrives after your designated start time that they must make the time up at the end of the day.

Edit: Be prejudiced all you want about young people. If you want to argue with an Oxford professor (sorry for all the terrible popup ads) then I only ask that you make a recording of your scientific arguments so that I can be enlightened.

Edited with a link. The relevant stuff is in like, the first 5-10 minutes.

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Actually, we have a common concept of "core office hours" here. That's 10:00 to 16:00, when everyone is supposed to be present. Of course, to get to 40 hours/week, people will work some additional hours outside that window, but that varies from person to person so you can't have standups then. –  MSalters Sep 9 '11 at 11:18
In my entire 30+ year career, I have had exactly one job where I could come in as late as 9am. 8:30 is a very normal work time to expect people to be in by. I've had jobs (when working for the military who seem to think the day is half over at 9) where I was expected to be there by 6:30 am. –  HLGEM Sep 9 '11 at 13:34
your second paragraph is so laughably funny I can't stand it. Adults are capable of learning to get up in time to get to work. Are you saying you aren't an adult yet? Then why woudl I want you in my work force? –  HLGEM Sep 9 '11 at 13:36
@Chad: Children != young adults. Children have early sleep/early rising cycles, young adults are late/late, and then as you grow older, it returns to early/early. –  DeadMG Sep 9 '11 at 14:26
@DeadMG - I Know I HATED 5am when I was 16, heck when i was 25. But I did it. The cows dont milk them selves just because I wanted to sleep in. When you take a job you have a responsibility. One of them is to be there when you are expected to be there. Unless you live in a totalitarian state you can choose not to accept a job. Find one that suits your needs. But do not accept one that doesnt and expect them to just alter everyting for you. –  Chad Sep 9 '11 at 14:43

8.45 is too early for a meeting. Move it to 9.00 or 9.30.

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At 9:15, traffic is significantly less busy than at 8:15. This can easily save you 25% in travel time. –  MSalters Sep 9 '11 at 11:19
I get into work at 7am by choice because I like to have a little bit of sunlight when I leave the office on weekdays. –  maple_shaft Sep 9 '11 at 11:39

What has worked for my teams in the past is to discuss, as a team, what time to hold the meeting. Remember, regardless of your particular methodology, agile teams deal with reality -- so if 8:45 am isn't working for the team change it. You could start the discussion by emphasizing the importance of everyone's participation, etc. Another benefit to having the team agree on the time is that then there is more self-imposed leverage from within the team to call out anyone who is routinely late or absent.

The other thing to consider is that maybe your stand up has strayed from being a stand up, so some consider it a waste of time. Remind the team of these points:

  1. Each person tells "what I did, what I'm doing, what problems are in my way," and that is all!
  2. Only one person is talking at a time
  3. The team isn't trying to solve problems during the stand up, just make note of them and move on to the next person. Solve them outside the stand up, so people who don't need to be involved don't feel like their time is being wasted.

Good luck!

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How about having the meeting as the last thing to do before lunch time?

  • everyone is sure to be at the office by that time
  • everyone is sure to be on time and hungry ;-)
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While the problem is persistent, hand out 2 warnings. On the 3rd incident -- cancel the entire meeting talking about general disrespect. On the 4th incident, simply exclude the individual from the team: tell their manager they need to be re-assigned & find someone else. It sucks, but, if someone isn't going to be a part of the team, they need to look for other employment options.

Of course, you can try to move the time. Also have a quick side chat with the person letting them know that showing up late is effectively dis-respect for the entire team, and in particular signals that "they are better than everyone else". If they truly are more important and want to continue to demonstrate this point, you've got a tough problem: either fire or put up with it. In the short term, you may wish to put up with it till you've marginalized the person who won't play with the team nicely... so you can remove them entirely.

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Is there a slightly annoying task that needs to be done regularly but nobody really wants to do, like clearing out the dishwasher or updating the project status?

Whoever comes latest to the meeting gets to do that task.

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Which is fine until someone refuses to do it. –  CdMnky Sep 9 '11 at 9:25
@CdMnky: Then that someone gets fired. Would you keep someone who refuses to work? –  Michael Borgwardt Sep 9 '11 at 9:50
@Michael "Then that someone gets fired. Would you keep someone who refuses to work?" Firing a developer for not washing the dishes? That's beyond stupid. –  quant_dev Sep 9 '11 at 10:50
@Wipqozn: That does sound like the behaviour of little children acting up, not professional adults I would want to work with. –  Michael Borgwardt Sep 9 '11 at 11:24
@quant_dev: Refusing to wash the dishes when everyone else does and it it's their turn, That's beyond stupid. Such a person has no place in a team. –  Michael Borgwardt Sep 9 '11 at 11:27

When I visited the Blizzard offices I've been told that whoever is late has to put $10 in a baseball cap.. That money piles up and then is spent buying cool "toys" for the team.

So it's basically a fine but psychologically it doesn't feel like one.

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Firstly, you need to ensure that everyone has agreed to attend the 8:30 meetings. If they have, and everyone else knows everyone has agreed to attend, then you have a good peer group to create a course of action.

Firstly I would say you should discuss this at your meeting.

Secondly, have a firm action to ensure latecomers are aware that they have inconvenienced every one else.

I would say lock the door, and don't talk to whoever is late about what was discussed unless absolutely necessary. I doubt it will happen that often after that, as it'll quickly become apparent that latecomers are ostracising themselves.

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Make a point to dish out the crap to those who are late to the meeting and let them know it.

This does not preclude you from moving the time of the meeting of course. If you are trying to herd programmers it might be best to establish "core-time" and allow flexibility around that core-time. Inspiration (and perspiration), can be best at different times of the day.

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