Scrum: walking the Kanban board

Scrum can be boring but can be also interesting and nice experience for people. It depends how we will use it and what will be our goals. Without good understanding by team members, it will be not possible to work efficiency using Scrum framework. One of possible improvement is walking the Kanban board – of course it can be applied only if we use Scrum with Kanban at the same time. It is not required, and Kanban is not a part of Scrum, so remember about that. You can treat this idea also as extension of facilitator rotation I have described last weeks. Ok, let’s jump into our Kanban board.

In a lot of teams, facilitator asks (or members talk about it on their own) about three key items defined by “fully official” Scrum:

What did you do yesterday?

What will you do today?

Are there any blockers or impediments preventing you from doing your work?

If we work in Scrum but also use Kanban board, these questions are unnecessary. It is because everything is – should be – visible on board. If they are not, it is clear signal team does something in a wrong way and process is not clear enough.

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Walk the Board instead!

Thanks to the Kanban board, we will see current status of all tasks, in most of cases to-do, in progress and done. Of course, in software development industry, we will probably add some additional columns like testing, under approval etc. Everything depends on specific scenario. Blocked items can have separate column or just use additional indication like small flag.

If we have such Kanban board, we can change our meeting approach and just walk from the right to the left – the opposite of the direction in which tasks are moving. Meeting facilitator can ask assigned team members about current progress of all not completed yet tasks and then get also info about possible blockers.

What about to do? We can skip this column; cards should be assigned before sprint stated and must wait until assigned person will complete its current tasks to get new one: so, it is clear they have not been started or require additional iteration.

This approach allows us to focus on value, increment we want to deliver to the end of the sprint. Instead of using a bit boring questions, facilitator must check real tasks and has to ask about them. It is effective especially if we rotate this role and allow team members to jump into it, check other persons work and in effect get additional knowledge about other team members’ work. It can bring additional discussions team (or part of team) can continue after formal daily.

Also, thanks to this approach we can finally start finishing and stop starting – it is very important because many teams have tendency to start a lot and in effect also have a lot of work in progress (WiP). Walking through the board allows us to realize that faster, also allow us to see additional work added during sprint (for example by some external stakeholders) and react properly.

Drawbacks?

Yes, there is one. Sometimes there can be a situation that someone already completed task but did not start anything new until daily. In such situation this person will not talk anything during meeting. Is it really bad? Not especially. As I wrote in previous paragraphs, we focus on value we want to deliver, so getting info from all team members always, even without good reason is not necessary.

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