Visual Aids for StandUps

I came across this post about Agile mascots from Kane Mar via the Carnival of the Agilists.

Indigenous peoples have been running well organized tribal meetings for many thousands of years. One of the methods that they developed involves a token often called a Talking Stick. Traditional Talking Sticks are decorated with carvings, feathers or other items of significance. The use of the Talking Stick is very simply; only the person holding the Talking Stick is allowed to speak. When he or she is done it’s passed to the next person.

His examples are a stuffed pig and a Rugby ball. So far none of our Scrum teams have used this, but we have used two related devices to hold to the 15 minute timeline.

One, is to use a special pen where the ScrumMaster pushes a button and it flashes red if someone’s veering off topic or just taking to long. I have to admit though I’ve had it for one project I’ve never actually used it in anger.

Second, is that anyone on the team can do a timeout signal with their hands if a person is veering off topic for too long. This was introduced by our Agile coach and appears to work fairly well. The timeouts when they happen are taken in good humor and everyone gets a little laugh about it. I’ve also seen people call timeout on themselves when they realized they’ve started rambling.

The talking stick idea is gentle enforcement of the standup meeting principle to stick to 15 minutes, tops. I rarely have problems with people going over on this, unless its a larger team say 8-10 people in which case everyone pretty much has to get through their update in 90 seconds which can be a little hard. And the idea that no one else talks while someone has the talking stick doesn’t allow for people to ask questions or comment on someone’s update easily. My guess is that you don’t stick too exactly to this unless you’re training up a team new to standups and you want them to really get the 15 minute limit part first.