Kanban-style standups

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Stand-up meeting, Daily Scrum Meeting or just planning meetings have become a common practice in IT. I described the different nuances of stand-ups 5 years ago in the article Stand-up meeting: best and worst practices . It would seem that the technique of holding stand-ups has already been considered from all sides. What can be complicated in a planning session? But more recently, our company began to practice a slightly different approach, with which we accelerated the release of tasks into the release.

It all started when in the summer of 2014 in Moscow, Askhat and I went to the training and he drew my attention to the difference between the stand-ups in Scrum and Kanban. Before that, I did not attach much importance to such nuances. At our company, Kanban is used for part of the projects, but the stand-up style has remained from Scrum.

Now we have changed the approach to stand-ups, I will talk about this later, show the difference between what was and what became. At the end of the article there are links for a deeper immersion in the topic with a description of different opinions and nuances.

Difference in stand-ups between Scrum and Kanban

If you are new to Scrum, then for starters I recommend reading about Daily Scrum .

In Scrum, the stand-up is focused on people - each member of the team takes turns talking about the results of the last day, making a promise for the current day and sharing problems. The fact is that in Scrum the emphasis is on fulfilling the promise that the team gives to iterate during planning. Everything must be done to fulfill the promise. The goal of the stand-up is to track whether we can complete all the iteration tasks, if not, then understand as early as possible what the problem is and take action.
Next we will talk about Kanban. If you have not used it, then I recommend that you first read the free book Priming Kanban .

Kanban pursues other goals - it is important to minimize Lead Time, i.e. time to work on a task at all stages. In this regard, the approach to stand-by is also changing. It is done with a focus on the board, focusing on the flow of tasks and detecting bottlenecks . It turns out that we are going through the columns with tasks from right to left, discussing how we can quickly transfer the task to the next stage. When discussing each task, any team member can speak on it.
In general, stand-up is not part of Kanban practices. In Kanban, especially, there is no practice, there are only a few basic principles. Stand-up can be considered one of the ways to implement the improve continuously principle .

In total, we get that Scrum meeting goes around people who talk about tasks, and Kanban meeting goes around tasks. In another language, in Scrum we have the connection Programmer 1 <-> * User Story , and in Kanban the connection is User Story 1 <-> * Programmer .

Process description

Let's take a step-by-step look at what a stand-up at Kanban consists of. For example, we will consider a board from a Wikipedia article .
  1. The whole team gathers around the board. If the team is distributed and the board is electronic, then everyone opens this board and calls up.
  2. It is advisable to appoint one who will be the leader. It can be someone from the team or any other person who knows how to conduct open discussions.
  3. We go through the columns from right to left and for tasks from top to bottom. The bottom line is that the rightmost column indicates the completion of work, so the tasks that are closest to completion are of high value. The faster we translate the task into the rightmost column, the less will be the Lead Time.
  4. In our example, the rightmost User Story is 754. The host asks: “What prevents us from moving task 754 to the Deployed column?”. Several people can tell the reason and explain that we are waiting for confirmation from the company’s head. In this case, the task is clearly marked with a sticker or comment that it is blocked due to such and such.
  5. Next User Story 75. The facilitator asks the same question. For example, one of the team members who is responsible for testing on the Pre-Production environment says that he takes this task into his work. He takes the card with the task and “pulls” it into the Test on Pre-Production System column. On this task, we note who took her to work as a sticker.
  6. Next we go for all the tasks that are on the board until the team’s resources run out. Everyone will take tasks for themselves in order to transfer tasks to the next columns at the next stand-up or tell them what blocks the work.

As you can see, in Kanban, unlike Scrum, you definitely need a board with visualization of the situation on the project. Because You are not discussing specific actions of people, but the current situation of tasks and their flow; it is very important to see where these tasks are. This is why Kanban-style standups are also called Story-focused stand-up or Work Items Attend.

In addition, you can ask 3 questions (or you can not ask, it's Kanban), as is done in Scrum, but these questions will arise around tasks, and not around team members:
  1. What hinders the movement of the task?
  2. How does the task flow?
  3. What can be improved?

Transition Results

After changing the style of stand-ups from Scrum to Kanban, the result appears immediately. For an example I give Cumulative flow diagram from the project where we applied new stand-ups. We did this on March 24 and you can see how the situation has changed - we have increased the output of tasks in the release:

I recommend that you look in more detail about the Cumulative flow diagram in the Explaining Cumulative Flow Diagrams presentation.

Reasons for freezing tasks

It is important to understand why before this, the tasks hung in the last stages and did not go into release. Everyone in the team understands the processes of managing IT projects, the customer is aware of the current situation, but it happens that tasks are waiting for a long time. We have identified several reasons:
  • A large number of blocked tasks. For example, a task has reached the penultimate stage and is waiting for confirmation from Product Owner (PO) for filling. In this case, the PO can be busy, changed focus to other tasks. It turns out that the task hangs in one step from the release, a lot of working time has already been invested in it and it remains to make a little effort. If we make stand-ups in Scrum style, there is no one to pull such tasks into the release, because no one has been doing this task for a long time. When we make a standup in the Kanban style, such tasks immediately become visible, in addition, every standup we return to them, because we go from right to left.
  • The priority of tasks is changing. Tasks reach the last stages, suddenly become not very important, the team switches to new tasks. It turns out that PO changed priorities and did not allow to complete the work. Initially, everyone put up with this state of things, because during the Scrum-style stand-ups, there is a discussion of the tasks that the team is working on now. Everything that was before is not so interesting.
  • Work fills the time allotted to her. . If the iteration lasts 3 weeks, then all tasks will hang somewhere on the board until the completion of the iteration. Even if some task can be done earlier, then it may not reach the last stage. Scrum has no goal of reducing Lead Time, then why release the task before the end of the iteration? Kanban is pushing tasks into the release, and Kanban-style standups are helping.
  • A lot of work! = A lot of results. At the Scrum meeting, the team can discuss how much was done yesterday. But does the impact work mean that the team yielded a lot of business result? Perhaps after the shock work a lot of bottlenecks formed? The task flow is important and needs to be monitored.


Switching to Kanban-style standups is easy. You can use it from any moment of work on the project. It doesn’t matter what your process is now: Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban or something else, if you have a board and visualization of the current situation on the project, then the described method of conducting stand-ups will suit you.

Related links:

The Daily Kanban Stand-up , Neel Lakshminarayan
Kanban - what is it and why should I care? , Landon Reese, Kathy Iberle
It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings , Jason Yip
Kanban vs Scrum , Henrik Kniberg

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