Short standups

I was watching Rachel Davies’ NDC session about moving from Scrum to Kanban earlier today. There was a question at one point regarding the length of the conversation in kanban standups from someone who was working in scrum. They were doing round-robin standups where each person is asked in turn about what they are doing. His concern was that if you were to walk through all the work items on the board rather than asking each person and if you were discussing the progress of each work item then this could take a long time.

This put me in mind of the work I did earlier in the year at LateRooms. My work there ended up being part developer, part devops and part agile coach. As part of the agile coach work I was asked to help to reduce the time spent on stand ups. Work was being tracked on a kanban-style board but the standups would often take a long time (30 minutes rather than the 10-15 aspirational time slot).

To try to address this we followed a very disciplined approach:

  • Scan for blocked. Traverse the board from right (Done) to left looking for anything blocked. For each work item that is blocked, determine who needs to talk to get it unblocked. Those people take a “board action” to start a conversation as soon as the standup is finished.
  • Scan for struggling. Traverse the board from right (Done) to left looking for anything that is going too slowly. These are not work items that are blocked but items that have hung around in one particular state for too long or longer than expected (putting estimates or cycle times at risk or exceeding them). For each work item that is struggling, determine who can help to speed it up. Those people take a “board action” to join the people currently working on the work item as soon as the standup is finished.
  • Looking for work. Anyone on the team looking for work to join in with.
  • AOB. Any other concerns, reminders or announcements that need making.

This seemed to keep the standup time down below 15 minutes and usually below 10. Obviously the discussions about unblocking work items and the work to help speed things up would go on after the standup and would often exceed 30 minutes. However, the key thing is that the people who were not directly involved could get on with their day and the money clock was costing the company a lot less than it would if the whole issue was played out in the standup.

I did write up some notes (1 side of A4 in large text) which acted as a crib sheet that had a few other bits on it but I don’t have that now (it’s probably on a file share somewhere at LateRooms).

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One thought on “Short standups

  1. Pingback: XP Day: Don’t Try This at Home « blueskyline

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