How We Transformed Our Daily Meetings for the Better

In the world of teamwork, our daily stand-ups play a crucial role in our collective success. We wanted to make things more efficient, and that’s when we found something awesome in the videos from “Development That Pays“: Walking the Board.

The Problem

We’ve all been there: the endless cycle of daily stand-ups where the team updates on what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today, and any blockers they’re facing.

While it seems like a straightforward approach, it has its drawbacks. The individual spotlight often overshadows the collaborative nature of the team event, with team members more focused on crafting their own stories than actively listening to others. This realization prompted us to seek a more effective alternative.

The Discovery

While browsing YouTube, I discovered “Development That Pays”. It proved to be a goldmine of helpful videos. Two videos, in particular, caught my attention: Daily Stand-up: You’re Doing It Wrong! and Agile Daily Standup – How To Walk the Board (aka Walk the Wall). These videos challenged our traditional approach and introduced an alternative — Walking the Board.

The “Walking the Board” Concept

Walking the Board, also known as Walking the Wall, offered a refreshing perspective. Instead of individual updates, the team starts with the ticket on the top right of the board. The team member assigned to that ticket provides an update, and we move on to the next ticket. This method shifts the focus from individuals to the work itself and changes the stand-up from a chain of individual updates to a team event.

This approach transforms the stand-up into a collaborative journey across the board, ensuring that the spotlight remains on the work itself, not on individual narratives. No more struggling to come up with a good story, the cards on the board provide the agenda. It’s a game-changer that keeps everyone focused on the work. It’s a shift from “What did I do?” to “What is the status of the work on the board?

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How To Walk the Board

Starting at the top right of the board makes financial sense — the items closest to being live are discussed first. If you’re familiar with the concept of net present value, you’ll understand that income now is more valuable than income later, and income tomorrow is more valuable than income next week.

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The second reason for starting at the right is purely practical: we are going to move the cards across the board from left to right. By starting at the right, we create space for cards to move into.

Also, the “Development That Pays” video emphasized the importance of moments of glory — allowing team members to move their own cards and take pride in their progress. It’s not just about updating the board; it’s about actively participating in the collective journey.

At the end of the meeting, the board and the team’s understanding of its current “shape are up to date. Team members can also share non-board related topics or updates, fo example tasks not listed on the board.

Success Story: Implementing Walking the Board

Inspired by these videos, we decided to give “Walking the Board” a shot. The transformation was remarkable! Our daily stand-ups became more than just updates — they turned into collaborative sessions centered around the work on the board.


To keep discussions concise, we introduced the “ELMO” rule. ELMO stands for Enough, Let’s Move On. “ELMO” is a word that the guide and travelers may use to indicate a conversation is either off-topic or takes too long. If a discussion is going off track, anyone can simply say “ELMO”. This signals that we’ll discuss it later, outside our daily stand-up.

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Secret Order

We established a specific order for leading the board and other meetings. This system not only enhances a sense of responsibility but also encourages shared leadership among the team.

The Result and Summary

Since adopting Walking the Board in the summer of 2020, our meetings have changed a lot. We have shifted away from giving individual updates. Instead, our focus is entirely on the work on the board. This change has made our stand-ups more productive and collaborative, as we’re now centered on the tasks at hand rather than individual narratives.

We switched from traditional stand-ups to “Walking the Board” because we wanted our meetings to be more efficient. The videos from “Development That Pays” played a key role in inspiring this change, showing us what wasn’t working with the old way and the benefits of a more team-focused approach. Now, Walking the Board is a regular part of our daily routine, making our meetings more focused, productive, and collaborative. If you’re looking to improve your stand-ups, the insights from “Development That Pays” are definitely worth exploring.

4 rules for building successful cross-functional teams

Rowing boat teamJosh Calabrese
A well gelled cross-functional team acts as unit much like olympic oarsmen.

ottonova has a long history of using cross-functional teams for Software Engineering. Very early on we tried to establish them to become more productive and product centred.

It took us a few tries to get it right and oh boy, did we make a lot of mistakes along the way.

I would like to share some of our learnings and put them into basic rules that everyone can use.

Not a band-aid 🩹

Don’t put the cross-functional team structure on top of something else.

Initially we structured our engineering teams around programming languages. We had a PHP/backend team and a JavaScript/frontend team. Both teams had a Team Lead, who was also the engineer’s superior. The teams had a backlog, sprints and were working quite smoothly. Then we put cross-functional teams on top of that. It didn’t work.

Suddenly we had conflicts of interest between the cross-functional teams and the old team structure. Everyone was confused what to focus on. The Team Leads didn’t engage with their engineers on a daily basis anymore. It was messy.

Clarity for everyone should be the first priority when you want to really establish cross-functional teams. No hidden layers, no hidden agendas.

Establish team culture 🗿

A great team shares a connection.

The easiest way to create a connection is to give the team freedom to establish a unique culture and identity. Everything starts with a name.

Give your teams the freedom to chose their own name and celebrate this name with an inauguration ceremony. Everyone in the group should well understand what their purpose and vision is.

Why was the team established?

What are our short, mid and long term goals?

How will we get there?

The more independent this process is, the easier it will be for the team to form a bond and feel connected.

Empower your team 💪

A successful cross-functional team feels empowered to take care of their value stream. They have to be the clear owner of their artefacts and have all resources at hand to complete their tasks.

Take for example a team that is supposed to take care of a customer facing app connected to a backend API. To maintain the app and implement new features without dependencies the team needs a minimum setup like this:

  • Mobile engineers for the app (iOS, Android or JavaScript)
  • Backend engineers for the API (e.g. JavaScript, PHP, GoLang or Ruby on Rails)
  • QA engineers for manual and automated testing
  • UI/UX designers
  • Product Owner who takes care of stakeholder communication
  • Team or Tech Lead

Every dependency to another team causes workflow delays and disruption.

A duo at the helm 🛶

A cross-functional team benefits greatly from a strong and well gelled Team Lead-Product Owner combo.

The Product Owner handles the stakeholder communication, collects the business requirements and pours them into user stories to fill the backlog.

The Team Lead takes care of the software delivery and people management. They unblock tasks, assign experts, make sure that tickets are completed with technical requirements and resolve personal issues.

The harmony of the TL-PO pair can be make-or-break for a team and should always be considered when assembling a cross-functional team.