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What Is Parking Lot in Agile?

‘Parking lot’ is a project management technique used to keep a team meeting on track. If a group conversation is in danger of veering off-topic, you could put that particular topic in the hypothetical parking lot. That way, you are ‘parking’ it for later so your team can focus on the more pressing issues.

In Agile, the parking lot technique would be used in daily standup meetings. Think of it as a virtual storage space. A real-life parking lot stores cars; an Agile parking lot stores ideas. 

Why use the parking lot in Agile?

The parking lot technique is a highly useful trick that can help you boost efficiency in your Agile meetings. As these daily meet-ups are quite short (they tend to run for about 10 or 15 minutes), it’s essential that participants get to the point quickly. Agile team members are already committing a portion of their time to these meetings every single day — you should aim to ensure they don’t lose any extra minutes on conversations that can wait until later.

The Agile parking lot helps teams to avoid scope creep. They should identify the most vital elements of their Agile project and prioritize them in their conversations to ensure that all major targets are hit.

On another note, it’s important to let individual team members know that their discussions are valid, even if they are off-topic. Rather than dismissing them and moving on, the parking lot technique is a good way to let people know that you are listening to them and are willing to address their concerns.

How to use the parking lot technique

There are a few steps you can follow when you notice that a conversation is going in the wrong direction:

  1. Act quickly to pull the discussion back to the appropriate topic. You should politely address the person or people talking and clarify that their chosen topic is more suited to the parking lot.
  2. Take note of the topic. You could add a sticky note to your whiteboard or use a separate flip chart dedicated to parking-lot topics.
  3. When you have discussed your more urgent issues, you can return to the parking lot at the end of the meeting. Scrum Alliance co-founder Mike Cohn refers to this as the “16th minute.” Alternatively, you could add it to the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.

Now you know how to use the Agile parking lot, your standup meetings should remain on course and run as smoothly as possible.

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