3 Tips to improving your Kanban stand up

Regardless of what method is used almost everybody working in an agile way agrees that having a regular stand up brings great value. It gives you as a team the chance to make a plan for the day. What will we work on, what will we finish, what are we stuck on? Whether it’s Scrum, XP, or Kanban this is one of the first practices teams implement after setting up a board.

In a lot of organizations I see stand ups being done in the same way regardless of what method / framework the team uses. More often than not this leads to stale or ineffective stand ups. This post is how you can make your Kanban stand up more effective with 3 easy steps.

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Focus on completion
  3. Manage the work, not the worker

1. Asking the right questions

Rather than Scum, Kanban has slightly a different dynamic to the stand up and if you know it chances are your stand up will be more effective and fun.

The Scrum stand up has every team member answer three questions*:

  What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

This focusses the sprint goal and impediments but not necessarily on the work that is closed to delivering value to the customer. There are two things to keep in mind when doing a Kanban (daily) stand-up:

  • Focus on finishing;
  • Discuss Value, Flow and blockers.

This changes the questions that needs answering in the stand up to things like:

  • What does this item need to be finished?
  • Do you need help / Are you stuck or blocked?

2. Focus on completion

From a value point of view, the things you did yesterday are not the things we should focus on. Aside from the fact that trust and communication makes the question of “what did I do yesterday” completely irrelevant, the stand up should be about results and outcomes. Not activities.

I’m not saying that it’s not important what people do during the day. It is worth discussing why somebody would start something new that is further away from delivering value. Some things are more important (like production defect), but in that case the impact of “the plan” should be assessed.

In practice this will mean that you discuss the items closest to completion first. Usually this means looking at the board from right to left. Remember: Stop starting, Start finishing.

3. Manage the work, not the worker

Discuss the work rather than the worker. The work item on the board might have a avatar on it so you can see who is working on it. If not, ask the team. “Who is working on this?”, “What needs to be done to finish it and deliver value to our customer?”

Personally I tend not even to discuss all the work on the board in a stand up. As soon as everybody has shared something we usually conclude that all the other work is not being worked on. Which is fine. As long as we work on the most valuable things first.

Focussing on the work will also give you an easy structure to prioritise and to assess the urgency of blockers. If you find that you have a lot of impediments, bblocker clustering is a great method for process improvement.

References

* 2016 version of the Scrum Guide (http://www.scrumguides.org/docs/scrumguide/v2016/2016-Scrum-Guide-US.pdf