If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “the board will be so cluttered if we put all of this work on there,” then I would be… well… richer than I am now!  In all seriousness, I love that statement because it gives me an opportunity to discuss how necessary it is to face our reality, no matter how messy. If we force ourselves to see the ugly truth, we’re much more motivated to improve it and others are more understanding when you talk to them. Instead of hiding the mess, we need to learn to navigate it when we need information quickly, like in a daily standup. Fortunately,  many virtual tools, like JIRA, provide quick filtering capability with their visual boards for this very purpose.

Standups at a glance

Regardless of what you might have heard, or experienced, standups can be quick no matter how many folks are on the team if they are laser focused on making a plan for the day. Because Kanban boards can take care of providing status for you, even large teams can hold standups in fifteen minutes with a few simple guidelines:

Walk the board from right to left so you can focus most on what is almost done and how to finish it. Typically people start from left to right and spend way too much time talking about things that aren’t even in process yet.

Focus only on what’s critical, meaning talk about what’s blocking progress and what you need from teammates in order to keep work flowing. Yep, this is when you say “Hey, I’ll need someone to peer review this before it can be deployed.” You can use flags or other metadata on your Kanban cards to help draw focus to these items.

Expose stale work. Even if you’re using work-in-process limits, its possible for items to fly under the radar and get too comfortable in one workflow state or another. Using a stale items filter can help you expose these older items during standups so we can help each other get them done and out of the way for good.

Quick filters are key

Since so many of you use JIRA, let’s look at how you configure and use their quick filter functionality to make standup a breeze. By default, JIRA boards come with two filters already configured: Only My Issues and Recently Updated.

While those filters provide great information, neither are wonderful for a standup meeting. Why?

Recently Updated is great for getting status, but that should be done outside of standup so you’re not there for days. Only My Issues is handy when you need to easily see your work, but standup is for the team as a whole. There’s also the danger that if you always look at the board with the Only My Issues filter on, you’ll lose context on how your work fits into the overall work and mission of your team.  Sidenote: This is one of the reasons I love the Highlight mode in LeanKit’s filters. It provides visibility into your work but keeps all the other work dimmed in the background so you can retain context. 

Fortunately, JIRA quick filters are just search queries, you can configure your own quick filters like I did for stale work.

For my board, I set the stale filter to show items that haven’t been updated in 5 days or more. Depending on the speed that work moves on your board, you could set your timeframe to be shorter or longer. Teams that focus on more transactional work could define stale work to be as little as one day without an update. If you’re watching stories, epics or projects, your timelines could be much longer… weeks or even months.

You can access your configured Quick Filters in a dropdown in the top left of your board

Try it out and see how quick filters can help you navigate your messy reality at lightning speed!