By Jessica Knott, Learning Design Manager and Caroline White, Learning Technology Designer
If you walk into the Hub around 10 AM on a Monday morning, you will see our team gathered on Main Street, looking at our project boards and sharing status updates during our weekly stand-up meeting. Our first post about our process, Anatomy of a Board, described the project boards that you can see when you visit us in D101 Wells. Our intention with this post is to discuss our weekly stand-up, or “scrum,” meeting that centers around our project boards, as well as open the door for future conversation about how a process like ours may (or may not) help your organization manage and share its work.
The project management process at the Hub isn’t strictly new – it draws from aspects of Agile project management, community building methods, and basic reporting. Scrum, a process frequently used in information technology and software or asset development contexts, is a brief meeting where members of a project team update one another on a project’s progress and the status of different project tasks (Stellman & Greene, 2015, p. 42). In Agile development teams, the scrum meeting focuses on assigned development tasks, their progress, their completion, or the roadblocks that need to be removed in order for the product to be delivered on time. Culturally, scrum also provides a shared accountability session, which places importance on timely delivery as a means of being conscientious about the needs of the team as well as the needs of the individual.
Stepping away from technical terminology, much of what we do at the Hub is still development, it is simply development of a different (and sometimes less tangible) kind. For example, in order to facilitate curriculum reinvention, activities and outcomes must be developed. In order to enhance the student experience, questions must be asked, feedback gathered, and solutions designed and developed.
For the Hub, adopting the scrum model has served not only as a method of increasing accountability and communication within our team, but also as a way of opening our projects and workflows to conversation and feedback from the wider university community. All of the Hub’s projects require collaboration with faculty, students, staff, administrators, and other stakeholders across campus in order to be successful. Establishing a weekly time to openly discuss the progress of our projects creates opportunities to bring new perspectives and people into our work.
The Hub’s Scrum
The Hub’s scrum occurs at 10 AM every Monday and centers around our project boards. Prior to scrum, project leads update their boards by adding new task cards, creating a reporting slide summarizing the overall project status, and marking task cards with green, yellow, or red stickers to indicate whether a task is on track, needs attention, or blocked.
Team members (and any visitors with us that day) then gather around the project boards for a 30 minute stand-up meeting where updates are provided for our entire project portfolio. Each project lead has two minutes to update the team on the progress and status of their project and indicate any accomplishments made in the past week.
Here is an example from the Proactive Advising project, led by instructional designer Breana Yaklin:
As you can see, there are a few key elements that project leads highlight during the scrum sessions:
Visitors are welcome to attend our weekly scrum meetings, and project leads try to briefly summarize the goals and purpose of the project before detailing weekly progress. This allows team members to follow the trajectory of project purpose, and brings visitors up to speed on the purpose of each project. Further information about the project can be found in the project charter, which is attached to each project board.
Overall Project Status
The overall project status (green, yellow, or red) describes the general flow of a project. Projects that are green are on track, projects in yellow are delayed or have some significant barriers, and projects in red have hit a roadblock and need assistance.
Task Card Movement
Project leads indicate which tasks moved from in progress to complete, as well as any tasks that moved from the backlog to in progress. Like the overall project status, red, yellow, and green stickers are used to show when a task is blocked, in progress, or completed.
Project leads often highlight both task and project-level risks that may create barriers or slow down progress. More detail about these risks and issues, as well as the plans to resolve them, are outlined on the project’s summary slide. Although it can be difficult to admit when a project isn’t moving forward as planned or hoped, asking project leads to highlight the potential barriers creates a space where people feel more comfortable asking for help, and can gather the support and people they need to resolve problems quickly.
Absence of Questions
While some brief questions may arise during the two-minute update, the “goal of the Daily Scrum is to identify problems, not solve them” (Stellman & Greene, 2015, p.116). After the stand-up, our team has shared calendar time to connect with others, answer questions, and follow up on any problems. This shared time is critical, as it allows us to prepare for the week, resolve roadblocks, and gather feedback on our work from visitors and teammates.
Now that we’ve given you the basics, we reiterate that our intention with this post is to share an idea with you, and invite you to experience our process. Our scrum meetings take place on Mondays at 10 AM in D101 Wells Hall. You are welcome to join us, and engage in conversations about the Hub’s current portfolio of projects. Maybe it will lead to a new collaboration.
Is scrum a process that would fit well in your work life? Tell us about it!
Stellman, A. and Greene, J. (2015). Learning Agile. Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media.
Jessica Knott, Learning Design Manager (@jlknott)
LX Designer, researcher, gamer, thinker, doer, iterator, “mustn’t” listener and instigator. If lost, return to @MSUHub, @TechAtMSU
Caroline White, Learning Technology Designer (@carolinerwhite)
Exploring ideas, enhancing student experiences. Writing, editing, content strategy, LX/UX design.