Standups in Kanban style

Александр Бындю
Александр Бындю · 19 сентября 2015
IT-архитектор · Эксперт в Agile и Lean · Основатель компании Byndyusoft

Stand-up meetings, Daily Scrum Meetings or just morning briefings are a common practice in the IT industry. I described a real work experience of conducting standups in the previous article “Stand Up Meeting: Patterns And AntiPatterns”. What are some obstacles that prevent a good standup? Supposedly the technique has been described deeply from all the points on the Internet. However, recently our company has started to use a new approach that has helped us to decrease Lead Time.

Nowadays the main methodology for projects is Kanban, whereas in the past we used Scrum, especially for standups. The change came when my friend showed me the advantages of standups in Kanban style. We have improved our meetings and I’m going to tell you how.

The difference in styles

If you are not familiar with Scrum, please read this article “Daily Scrum

Scrum is people oriented — each member of a team talks about the results he had yesterday, makes promises for today and shares his challenges. In fact, Scrum methodology is based on team commitment. In this case the purpose of a standup is to track — if we can keep the promise. If not, the team has to realize what an obstacle is and how to overcome it as soon as possible.

If you haven’t faced Kanban in practice before, I recommend getting to know it with a free book “Priming Kanban” before you continue reading.

One of the main purposes of Kanban is to decrease Lead Time. That is why Kanban style standups absolutely differ from Scrum standups. These kinds of standups are focused on workflow, spotting bottlenecks, and held around a Kanban board. So we follow from the right column on board to the left one.

Actually, standups are not described as a part of Kanban practices. Frankly speaking, Kanban itself has no particular practices, only six principles. Standups can be considered as a realization of the Improve Continuously principle.

To sum up, Scrum Meetings are built around team members whereas Kanban Meetings are based on workflow tasks. In other words there is a relation Programmer 1 -> * User Story in Scrum but in Kanban it is User Story 1 -> * Programmer.

Process description

Step by step we will go through standups in Kanban style. For instance, let’s look at a Kanban board from Wikipedia:

  1. A team gets together in front of the Kanban board. If a team is separated and a board is online, all members have to open the board and start a group call.
  2. Tip! Assign a leader to the meeting who has the necessary skills to conduct the meeting.
  3. Follow the tasks from the right column to the left one and from top to bottom. On the Kanban board, the tasks to be finished soon, are placed on the right side, consequently, they are more valuable. The faster we move a task to the next right column, the less Lead Time it will have.
  4. The top right User Story is #754. A meeting conductor asks a team: “What can we do to move task #754 to the next column?” Some team members can explain the problems and obstacles or update progress for this task.
  5. If the task is stuck because of some reason, we put a red sticker on the task. For example, this task is to wait for Product Owner approval but he is on vacation until next week.
  6. The next is User Story #75. The conductor asks the same question again. Somebody gets a card and pulls it from Test on Local System column to Test on Pre-Production System column because WIP limit is not exceeded.
  7. Move across all User Stories on the board until everybody has a job for today.

Standups in Kanban style require a board which visualizes a current project state. That is why this standup style is also called Story-focused stand-up or Work Items Attend.

Do you remember three questions from a Scrum Meeting? In Kanban we also ask three questions but they have changed due to new principles:

  1. What’s impeding us?
  2. What’s the flow like?
  3. What can we improve?

Results of changes

You will see the results of the changes the next day. Look at our Cumulative flow diagram:

Starting from March 24, the number of tasks soon-to-be-released were increased in last columns such as Resolved, Ready for live, etc.

For further information about Cumulative flow diagrams, I recommend the presentation Explaining Cumulative Flow Diagrams.

Reasons of task delays

It is important to analyze why tasks were frozen and in the columns too long. We’ve discovered these reasons:


It is really easy to bring standups in Kanban style into your process. It doesn’t matter what methodology you are using right now: Scrum, XP, Kanban or Scrumban, if you have a task board and a desire to implement standups, it can and will increase process effectiveness.

Deep dive into this theme:

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