Saturday, May 01, 2010

Brain dump on team boards

I was helping a team set up their board (white board, Kanban board, Scrum board, call it what you will) for Agile working the other day and it dawned on me I use a whole bunch of heuristics I’ve never seen written down. So here goes:


  • I like magnetic white boards best myself but I’ve seen teams use walls, cupboards and flip charts too. The important points are: big, visible things you can stick other-things on it.

  • I prefer to use index cards but many teams use Post-It type stickies. If you use index cards you need a means of sticking them to the board which is where the magnets come in.

  • You can divide the columns: classically this is To do, In Progress and Done. Of course Kanban teams use many more columns.

  • At first I used the same dry market pens to mark the columns as to make notes on the board. The trouble is these lines tend to disappear. This is a particular problem with Kanban teams who have more columns and so more movements to make. So now I use coloured electrical insulation tape to mark the columns. This is much easier to see and lasts a lot longer.

  • Leave space on the board to include Team or Project name and the end date of the iteration. You might also find space to keep a burn-down/up or cumulative flow diagram.

  • You don’t need a very big board: I normally use 120cm x 90cm, again Kanban teams tend to need bigger boards because they have more columns.

  • You can buy a suitable board from most stationary suppliers for less than £100. If your company can’t afford this (or won’t pay) you have problems which Agile isn’t going to fix.

  • Remember to buy magnets, dry wipe pens and something to remove the permanent market someone is going to put on there eventually.

  • Coloured magnets are fun but so far I’ve not found using the colour of a magnet to convey information hasn’t been worth the extra effort

  • Boards are usually mounted on the wall or a stand but, I prefer them to be free standing because you can carry them around. If you have a meeting in another room you just pick the board up and carry it there. And its a team exercise to move it.

  • We had an accident with a board once: it was hit from behind at the start of the planning meeting and everything came off. But that turned out to be good, we looked at everything in more detail. Sometimes I now remove everything at the start or during the course of the planning meeting and only replace it if I need to.

  • Don’t put designed on your board: there isn’t enough space. By all means have another board for designs.