Effective Kanban standups

1 minute read

Some thoughts on making the most of your daily standups. These tips were extracted from Manning’s Kanban In Action which I would recommend for all teams who practice Agile development.

  1. Focus on the baton, not on the runners
  2. Walk the board from right to left
  3. Focus on smells
  4. “Are you working on anything else?”
  5. Spontaneous kaizen meetings

Batons over Runners

This contrasts with the Scrum style of standup that focuses on each individual (What are you working on today? What were you working on yesterday? Any blockers?). Kanban teams tend to focus on the work items. Remember, the goal of Kanban is to keep work items flowing from left to right.
If an item is blocked, it may demand more floor-time that the individual assigned to that item.

Right to Left

Kanban teams often walk the board from right to left. This means starting from the Done column, and moving back towards the Todo column. This fits quite well with the Kanban ‘pull principle’ of pulling work items to you, and pulling them into production, rather than just pushing them onto the next state.


Are we exceeding any of our WIP limits? Are there any bottlenecks on the board? Are there any items in the ‘Urgent’ swimlane?
Focus on anything that deviates from the norm. This is where we need to direct our attention. These are situations that can disrupt flow.

Anything not on the board?

Is there something being worked on that isn’t on the board. The Kanban board should be the single source of truth of what is in play. If your board does not reflect reality, then you cannot rely on it to visualise the flow of work.

Spontaneous Kaizen

Keeps tangents to a minimum. You need to keep your standups to the alloted time. If participants start going on a bit of a tangent, or deep-diving into a topic, then encourage them to hang around after standup and to discuss in more detail then.