When SCRUM Stand-Up Meetings feel like an Interrogation …

You are probably familiar with the common format of SCRUM Stand-Ups. Person by person you go through what everyone was …

  • … working on yesterday
  • … what they are planning to do later today
  • … and if there are potential blockers they need help with

This usually gets reported to the SCRUM master and the rest of the team.
Unfortunately this format often leads to unwanted side-effects if you are not super careful.

Sith Lord & Scrum Jedi Master Darth Vader at a Stand-Up Meeting ☺
  • It’s not always easy to remember what you did yesterday
    Maybe it is just me but I have a really hard time to exactly recall what I did yesterday or even a few hours ago when asked on the spot.
    Even if something really important happened ☹
  • It encourages commitment to busy-work
    If you don’t know what the next most valuable thing to work on is you might commit to something that’s not very useful in the greater scheme of things ☹
  • It actually is hard to follow
    In cross-functional teams people often work together on features, so jumping around from person to person can create a narrative that’s hard to follow on the one hand and feels repetitive on the other hand ☹
  • It can feel like an interrogation
    Switching from person to person, where people sometimes can’t remember things and fear they might miss something important the Stand-Up can create a very uncomfortable atmosphere similar to exams or interrogations ☹

On top of that SCRUM Stand-Ups always happen in the context of a time-boxed sprint where people usually are behind their estimates and everyone knows it. Sometimes that fact even gets emphasized by a burn-down chart that shows where the team already should be at.

What a great way to start your day ☹

Fortunately there is an easy way to avoid these pitfalls.

Walking the Board

The easiest way to avoid the pitfalls from above is to add a Kanban board to streamline your Stand-Up meetings. Kanban Boards are a very simple and compact way to visualize your development process from left to right.

They are incredibly helpful to our associative memory.

A typical Kanban Board in Blossom that helps to streamline Stand-Up Meetings.

Kanban boards show you …

  • all features your team is currently working on
  • how far along every feature is in your process
  • who is currently involved in which feature
  • if progress on a certain feature is blocked
  • which features are ready to move forward
  • whether you do too many things at the same time

All of this is exactly what you need to establish context for Stand-Up meetings. Instead of having one person after the other report what they are doing you can use the Kanban board itself to go through what’s going on.

A popular way to use Kanban boards for Stand-Ups is to “walk the board”. First you start with identifying potential blockers as they are usually the most important things that everyone needs to get aware of. Just go through the cards that are marked as blocked (e.g. Blossom shows them with red stamps).

Once that is done you go through the board stage by stage from right to left to see which features you need to talk about and which you can skip. This is also a great time to update the board if it isn’t already up to date.

By walking through the board Stand-Ups feel more like a strategic meeting and a board game than individual reporting and interrogations. The board helps everyone remember. It also helps to get everyone on the same page and to focus on moving value from left to right.

Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Looking back I feel like Stand-Up meetings without a Kanban board are a lot like playing chess blindfolded. It’s possible but way more difficult.

What are your Stand-Up meeting tips and lessons learned?
Please let me know!


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Also make sure to check out Blossom an Agile/Lean Project Management Tool I’m currently working on ☺