When I joined the Flights team as Product Owner, I quickly began to develop a dislike for stand-ups. No one turned up on time, everyone struggled to remember what they’d worked on yesterday, there was very little in terms of two-way interaction and it just seemed more like an exercise in each individual team member justifying their existence.
The Flights team were using the very common yesterday, today and blockers model for their stand-ups. This is where each person takes their turn to talk about what they worked on yesterday, what they’re working on today and if anything is impeding their progress, otherwise known as blockers.
At first, following this method seems reasonable and on the level of the individual, it is. But stand-up is not an individual event, it’s a team event.
When someone’s taking their turn to speak, is everyone else listening? Probably not!
To be fair, those who’ve had their turn probably are listening, but those yet to speak are unlikely to be. Their attention is occupied with working out what they’re going to say. If you think about it, everyone wants to make a good impression, we want to tell a good story, we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. Coming up with your story is not easy, it takes concentration, it takes all your attention.
So to address the failings of our current stand-ups, I suggested to the team that we try a different way of running stand-up and instead of starting with a member of the team, the starting point would be a card on the Kanban board.
This stand-up method is called walking the board. It takes the focus away from the individual and puts it where it should be, on the work.
There’s no longer a need for anyone to use valuable brain power to come up with a good story. The cards on the Kanban board provide the agenda items for the stand-up and commenting on an agenda item is really easy.
Since switching over to walking the board, our stand-ups have become much more structured, allowed the team to actively listen to each other, interact when appropriate and most importantly, focused the team on the work at hand.
Here’s a short video that shows a great example of how to do it, courtesy of Gary Straughan of Development That Pays:
Flights - Product Owner