Re-energizing a Standup Meeting with Kanban

Problem: Standup meetings are more like status meetings than a collaboration meeting for the team.

Symptoms: 

  • The whole standup meeting is run by the Scrum Master, with no one doing or saying anything until called upon.
  • People on the team report their status back to the Scrum Master or team lead. No one or few people speak to the rest of the team, and interaction between people is pretty rare.
  • Its difficult for people to gain an integrated picture of team status and progress across all the user stories. Individuals report around a circle, describing their progress against individual tasks on user stories, but no one is reporting on or focusing on the progress of the stories themselves.

In summary, all the data reported in the standup meeting is focused on reporting task status back to the Scrum Master, little collaborative conversation occurs, and no complete picture of progress in delivering user stories is to be found.

Solution: Change the standup meeting to focus on collaboration and the flow of value through the team. Change the level of conversation from talking about tasks, which represent effort, to talking about the user stories promised for the current iteration. Doing this promotes cross-team member discussion about the work and how they can complete it. This takes the Scrum Master out of the middle of the conversations and lets the team talk about what matters to them.

Method: The way I help teams focus more on the flow of user stories and value is to make the stories more visible parts of the standup. The Scrum Task Board is fine for showing the flow of tasks through their workflow, but user stories have other elements to their workflow, such as any sort of code reviews or business focused reviews. After getting the team in the habit of talking about tasks and their states, just to get them used to talking about their work, I like to introduce a Kanban board.

Kanban boards are used to represent both the course user stories take from the time a team starts working on them through the time that a team delivers that story, and the current status of all of the stories in play for that sprint. Having this visual representation of the work has a drastic effect on the standup and the team. They stop looking at me, the Scrum Master, and they start looking at the board. They start talking about the stories, where they are, what issues they need help with, discussions about when they’ll be finished with their current phase of work and ready to be moved forward… In other words, they begin collaborating. Its magical 🙂

For those of you who have never seen a Kanban board, this is what one looks like:

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This board models the workflow defined by the team. In this case, stories committed to the sprint begin in the Sprint Backlog column, and then move through Story Review, Development, Testing, Review, and then finally Done. During a sprint, small cards that represent each user story move across the board from left to right representing the work done to each item. Here is a board populated with work:

image

Here we see user stories in varies stages of completion. Having this board as the focus of the standup allows the team to talk about the progress of user stories, and not get overly concerned with low level details that confuse the big picture.

Conclusion: On the team that I’ve been coaching for the past couple of months, introducing a Kanban board was the key to changing the standup meeting from being an exercise in status reporting to a productive, useful collaborative event. We learned how to focus on issues and the flow of value throughout our sprint, and to ignore the noise of personal status. Unanimously throughout the team, we agree that our new standups are much more productive in helping us deliver on our promises each sprint.

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