Low Tech Boards. Markers, Post-its, White Boards … Why?

Yes, I’m a big fan of low tech boards and I am not able to precise how many times I am asked WHY I want to use physical board and post-its during our Release Planning or Sprint Events rather than off-the-shelf solutions like Excel, Jira, Mantis, Trello etc because, after all, we’re tech guys and this makes a lot of sense, doesn’t make?

No, it doesn’t for me and I explain why.

According Cockburn (figure below) the most effective way to convey information is a face-to-face conversation that can be boosted with share modelling spaces where people can collaboratively work on.

communicationmodes

I not only second that as well as I believe that the better is the communication flow within a team, the greater are the chances of having a productive environment and consequently, create solutions that matter.

On a white board or flip-chart everyone is at the same level and have the same conditions to contribute and understand what is being discussed. Everyone is focused on the same subject and work together enhancing the details about it. Therefore, a single post-it with a few words has a lot more context and content than those simple written words. Additionally, we can easily see the overall picture, making easier to reach a common understanding.

Also, the discussion pace will increase or decrease according the group’s cadence because everyone is able to contribute at any time (add/remove/change things). If we use a tool where someone needs to drive a keyboard, for instance, we are liable to follow the drive’s pace. Even if he is a good typer or master that tool, we will aways follow his pace maybe too fast or too slow. Consequently, we lose collaboration and increase the chances that only a few people will contribute to it or that we will have a command and control meeting. As a result of that, the meeting can easily become boring and inefficient.

LowTechBoards

There is no constraint on a physical board, you can adapt to fit your needs as you go. It is easy to manipulate, flexible. Not so rarely, we erroneously adapt our processes to fit the tools we have when we should do the opposite. By doing that, we are overlooking the first Agile Value: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” then we end up having what I call JDD, Jira Driven Development (urgh!), for instance.

Finally, it is much more enjoyable drawing and moving post-its around, isn’t it?

Sometimes we may have an overhead if we have distributed teams/stakeholders and need to keep our physical board as well as a online tool updated but the pros can be  (and usually are) greater than the cons.

Experiment, inspect and adapt !!!
What are your thoughts on it?

 

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