Monday, September 16, 2013

Agile and the Post-it® note

There used to be a joke that agile was developed by 3M to sell more Post-It® notes. And I must admit, I certainly use those little sticky pieces of paper in all sorts of agile activities: planning, retrospectives, parking lot items, take-aways….

But why?
·         Portability – allows the team to re-arrange as needed for categorization.
·         Multiple writers – who hasn’t spent time watching one person write user stories and/or tasks into Rally or TFS? ‘Nuff said.
·         All voices – everyone can write, so everyone can have a voice, even those who don’t like to talk in groups.
·         Right-sized – a 3x3 Post-It® is really all the size you need for a user story. I used to use the mini-sized ones (2x2) to write my daily list on – anything more just couldn’t get done.
·         Stickiness – well, most of the time. The notes can be transported anywhere, or even gathered up and stuck in a folder for later reference. There are many surfaces where Post-It® notes don’t work as well, but then a little painter’s tape can help!

Are there alternatives?
The “old school” way was using index cards and a bit of painter’s tape to create story and task cards. I recall using larger index cards for the stories, and matching the colors for the associated task cards. Painter’s tape, magnets or pushpins could be used to attach these cards to the appropriate walls.

One tool that I have found useful when working with distributed teams is Google Drive/Docs. This is especially useful when you’re in an environment where laptops are ALWAYS present. Everyone around that conference table has their laptop out, and can very easily add their notes to a shared Google document. The folks working remotely have equal access, without any additional steps to be heard. And it’s fun to figure out who’s the “anonymous wallaby!”

As a bit of a tangent, a cube of mini stickies and a file folder are a quick and easy way to make a personal Kanban or scrum board.