Don't forget to groom your story wall
One of the most common practices in Agile is the daily stand-up or scrum. The term scrum, adopted from the game of rugby, is a daily opportunity for team members to unite and share:
- what they did yesterday,
- what they’ll do today, and
- what is blocking them from delivering value to their customers.
The reason it is also called a stand-up is because the participants stand. Usually taking 10-15 minutes, this gathering forces participants to stand and encourages them to be brief and provide only relevant information for their team.
In most circumstances, the standup works well. However there can be times when the team members start to discuss trivial or irrelevant matters about what they did or will do. There can be various reasons for this, including perhaps a self-induced pressure to say something rather than nothing, or to be viewed as “contributing alot by speaking alot”.
While the scrum master or iteration manager (facilitator of the daily stand-up/scrum) can remind team members to keep updates relevant, another solution is to occasionally ‘groom the story wall’. In this technique, rather than allowing everyone to answer the above three (3) questions, the scrum master simply points to each story card with the status of In Progress or Sign-off/UAT, and specifically asks the card assignee(s) for an update and any blockers on that card. This practice keeps the team focused and highlights any cards that may have stalled while In Progress or Sign-off/UAT. I’ve found this technique useful when deployed unannounced at least once per week.