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My team keeps a detailed record of in progress and blocked items on the team task board (format: To Do, In Progress, Done). The board is so detailed that meetings have turned into walking the board status updates that are simply read right off the board. There is value in coming together to discuss after scrum items, particularly because half the team is remote.

Where are the impediments? (Marked on the board)
What are you working on? (Marked on the board)
What did you do yesterday? (Board updated to reflect any changes/completions)

The team does not see the value in having a scrum meeting. I've considered:

  1. Get rid of daily scrum as it's been replaced with these async updates? Management won't like that.

  2. Changing the format to ask different questions. What else is valuable?

How can we fix this?

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    I need to think about this more, but the asynchronous updates of your task board appear to have made your process leaner. You're continuously providing status updates and identifying impediments. If these questions are adequately answered by looking at your task board, then you may be right and the daily standup may not make sense in its current format. You would need to either justify the change to management or find a format that adds value to your team. – Thomas Owens Apr 22 '16 at 13:19
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    If the question is asked "What did you do yesterday?" and the response is "The cards have moved columns" then that is a very toxic viewpoint. Where is the context about what moved and how? Where is the commitment to the team goal? It sounds like your board is encouraging a silo mentality of "My work is visible so if you want to discuss it then look at the cards." || Also, the question is now "What are you working on" as you wrote; it is "What you are attempting to accomplish today?" AKA - How are you supporting the team goal today? – Venture2099 Apr 22 '16 at 13:56
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It sounds to me like you've found the one of the beautiful things about Kanban. The work is so visible, that you've made part of your process irrelevant. Congratulations, you've leaned out your process and removed some overhead.

Well, you almost have. You've not done away with the overhead yet, but you suspect that you can. Sounds like time to run an experiment. Talk to your team to see if they're interested in trying their next iteration without the stand up. Measure the results, and talk about both the measurements and the team members feelings about it at your retrospective.

You may find that they're already collaborating so early and often that the "getting in sync" part of the stand up is redundant. You might find that things go worse without it. In the latter case, be sure to shift the focus away from "walking the tasks" to "Alice, do you have that widget done? I'd like to start implementing X and need your widget to move forward." and "Hey Bob, you're really good at Y. I've not really done it much, could you pair with me a bit today?"

As for management not liking it, it sounds like someone needs to explain to them that there is no "One true Agile way", and that Scrum isn't the only way to run a project. Go research Kanban, XP, and all the other processes out there. Agile is all about finding what works for your team. Finding what works for you requires some level of experimentation.

Having the numbers to back up your decision to do away with the stand up should sway your management team. Remember, meetings are very expensive and should only be held if they're actually valuable.


Now, as for the title question of "What is the value of walking the tasks?", there is value to be found in doing it by starting at the stories/tasks that are almost done. By starting there, you can shift the focus from the traditional 3 scrum questions to focusing on flowing items through your system. Remember, almost done isn't Done. Kanban is all about limiting WIP and getting things to Done faster. By focusing on what needs to happen to get from Almost Done to Done, you'll get more value from your standup.

  • Would the down voter care to explain? I'd like to improve my answer if possible, but can't do that without feedback. – RubberDuck Apr 24 '16 at 14:10
  • However the question relates to the actions that are occurring within the Daily Scrum which do not currently follow the expected Daily Scrum pattern. Walking the board is an activity that should be eliminated due to lack of value, not the Daily Scrum. – MrHinsh - Martin Hinshelwood May 4 '16 at 5:27
  • BTW: Kanban is not about limiting WIP and getting things done faster. Limiting WIP os a practice that is process agnostic. Kanban is a method of optimising the process of delivering work. – MrHinsh - Martin Hinshelwood May 4 '16 at 5:30
  • @MrHinsh yes it is. Kanban is about eliminating waste. Limiting WIP is one way of eliminating waste. Getting rid of processes that aren't delivering value is another way of eliminating waste. I also never really suggested the daily scrum be eliminated. The stand up should be a to sync up and plan the day, but what if you shorten that loop and plan the next few hours instead? What if you're just so engaged with your team mates that you don't need a special time of day to meet up, but you're just doing it all the time instead? You get rid of the waste by getting rid of the meeting. – RubberDuck May 4 '16 at 8:58
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    I think we're in agreement here @MrHinsh, but I'm failing to see what you're getting at. – RubberDuck May 9 '16 at 11:37
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Standups: An Eight-Hour Planning Exercise

The daily standup is never supposed to be an exercise in "walking the board." Instead, it is supposed to be a way for the team to synchronize with one another, and to do short-term planning for the day's increment.

Because agile methodologies value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, in your scenario the standup is still essential. The focus should be on hand-offs and allocation of team resources rather than on story/task status, though. For example:

  1. Bob says he'll be working on Story A today, and asks Alice if the widget she was embiggening yesterday is ready.
  2. Alice says: "Almost." She's refactoring a unit test to meet the Definition of Done and will have her story ready to hand off to Bob by lunchtime.
  3. Charlie is working on Story B today, but needs help from Alice and Bob to ensmallen the whatsit. The three schedule a breakout meeting for the early afternoon to collaborate on the story.

None of these things are necessarily status updates, blockers, or discrete state changes the way a Kanban board might reflect them. They're really just "planning in the small," as the team members coordinate with each other to map out the day's work and collabortively allocate team capacity towards the day's tasks.

This type of mini-planning is the ideal that Scrum (and other agile frameworks) aspire to through the use of the standup ceremony. The three questions people typically use as the format for the ceremony are really just a widely-used mnemonic to help team members reach that goal, but treating it as a formal reporting template can sometimes lead the team astray.

Let the board be an asynchronous information radiator. Use the standup to synchronize the current day's work.

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Daily Standups are one of the more misunderstood and improperly run ceremonies of Scrum/Agile. The Sprint Demo being the other big offender.

When I teach agile I explain that the Daily Standup is like a daily retrospective. The purpose of the meeting is not to discuss status, the purpose is to:

"Reflect on the last 24 hours and decide how you will change your plans for the next 24 hours in order to meet the sprint goal."

I encourage teams to use Burn Down charts for their sprints as just "walking the task board" easily leads into the trap of status reporting. Instead you should be looking at the work done and projecting forward "if we continue at this pace, will we make our sprint commit." You also want to be paying attention day over day. If someone has been on the same task for three days in a row, with no change at all, the team should be calling this out. If we don't reflect on sprint status daily, we'll easily get to the end of the sprint without having gotten anything done.

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