We like Agile frameworks mainly due to their effectiveness, team integration, and cost-saving principles, but we also love how playful some practices can get. In particular, Kanban and Scrumban can be pretty stimulating thanks to their accent on visualizing the work, which spans a board where tokens representing user stories or tasks are moved from one edge to the other after meeting some conditions.
In a way, it is like a board game. Intuitively, most people go through it from left to right. It makes sense if we consider that the first column at the left gathers the items the team should start working on, while the one on the right is for completed tasks; it is like going from start to finish. But what if we tell you there is a more Agile approach? It is called Walk the Board and it is really simple to adopt!
Topics to check
- What does it mean to Walk the Board?
- Walking the Board in Daily Scrumbans
- Remote teams can Walk the Board
- Stand-Bot’s use cases
What does it mean to Walk the Board?
It is an Agile technique that consists of checking the status of the items on the board, starting with the ones closer to completion, during a stand-up session. It means that you go through it from right to left, mainly because tasks that are closer to getting completed are also more likely to deliver value faster than those in earlier stages. As the specialist Gary Straughan states in this video, "income now beats income later, and income tomorrow beats income next week."
This way to review the board is taken straight out of Kanban and differs from the more Scrum-related Round Robbin model, where sessions focus on asking all the attendees the three standard questions: What did you accomplish yesterday? / What are you working on today? / Are there any blockers?
Walking the Board can even boost collaboration thanks to concentrating on the specific state and blockers of a task that might trigger a discussion between two or more teammates. But remember: There should be NO issue solving during stand-ups. After the session is over, any pending conversation must happen in a different meeting with a specific agenda. Check out some good practices for your Daily Stand-ups here.
We also recommend you use Jira so you and your team can easily access and visualize the board. It is a fantastic tool, very intuitive, and does magic for remote teams.
Walking the Board in Daily Scrumbans
In the last post published in this blog, we took a look at what Scrumban is, how to start practicing it and how to adapt some Agile ceremonies to it, especially the stand-ups, as they are a great way of keeping your team synced, even while working remote or hybrid. We will not go through it again, but you can check the article here.
In that sense, say you decide to hold two stand-up sessions a week where you will Walk the Board alongside the team -a remote team. You will review the state of work items as we stated before, from right to left. Sometimes, you may find some of these stories have not been appropriately moved to their corresponding column, even if their product has been delivered. Well, this session is the ideal moment to ensure tasks are placed in the right column.
If you want to spice things up, we suggest you rotate the host for each session. Do not let your PM carry the weight of all your team communications: Remember that having different persons conducting the session can foster a sense of belonging, relevance, and accountability that can lead to good performance. It is also a great way to get everyone on the same page.
Remote teams can Walk the Board
If your team already works with Agile frameworks, even if it is remote or hybrid, adopting this practice should be as easy as reverting the way you see your board. You can use the help of specialized tools to ease your way, however. We have mentioned before that Jira is our recommendation to manage your project and host your board.
Jira can let your whole team access the board at any time so that anyone can see the state of work items and their owner. It is a potential time-saver, as you can change your Daily Stand-ups for weekly ones and only focus on Walking the Board. You might have to calibrate your process with a bit of trial and error, but as you know, we always long for you to experiment to find the best solution.
Stand-Bot’s use cases
Talking about tools, the Stand-Bot Premium Plan can come in handy, as it takes on the responsibility of checking the daily status of all your mates, regardless of their time zone, gather the data and share it publicly through Slack. You can configure it to run its asynchronous stand-ups on a daily, weekly, or custom cadence, and soon, it will be able to ask any question you want, so it better fits your reporting needs.
Consider that you can trigger Stand-Bot Premium Plan's many unique features by using easy-to-remember Slack commands. For example: If you are Walking the Board on your own as the PM and you want to know what has happened with an item that is blocked, you can see who is in charge of it and ask Stand-Bot to show the owner's prior sent status with the @standbot status + @username command. It would then show more details of the issue, so you start thinking about how to solve it.
Another scenario: It is a crucial iteration, and you need to make sure that two high-priority features get delivered for production by the end of the week. Erick and Sheila are in charge of mentioned tasks, but you do not want to disrupt them with meetings or ask them to update cards on a Jira board. You do need, however, to learn how things are going. Then you can type @standbot unskip @username, both with Erick and Sheila usernames. That way, Stand-Bot will not let them skip, propitiating them to share an update (or raise a red flag).
In brief, Walking the Board can be an excellent spin to your actual Agile practices, as it can help you save time on many levels. We also think that choosing the right set of tools is critical for any project to be successful, but it is equally important that you keep objectives clear.
We hope this post has been enlightening for you. If it has, please share it with your network!
Are you adopting or looking to improve your Agile practices? Is your team remote? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should check out our products for distributed teams. We focus on making communication more effective and easier for remote teams.
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