What’s with the sticky notes: Information Radiators

In Agile we make use of various Information Radiators to convey data quickly and easily.  They are put in a highly visible spot and communicate the teams progress on each sprint.  The term was coined by Alistair Cockburn.  These radiators are used to convey information to other not on the team as well.  The idea is for management and other departments to walk by and see the information and quickly understand where the team is at.  They are updated constantly to communicate the current status.

1. Sprint Board

Photo Credit: diego.pacheco via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: diego.pacheco via Compfight cc

The Sprint Board is the list of tasks for the current sprint, some call it a Task Board.  Usually you will have some semblance of columns denoting where in the completion cycle the work is.  It is critical that this board gets updated everyday, perhaps during the morning Scrum or Stand up meeting.  This board is really great at showing the team’s real time progress on the current work in the Sprint.  As outsiders walk by this they should be able to quickly see the progress.

For instance you may have To do column for items not yet started.  Then you might have an In Progress or Doing column to put items of the Sprint currently being worked.  The next column could be your last column Done or Code complete for development is done next it may move to testing.  The beauty of Agile and in some people’s eyes the curse is there is no prescribed way.  While working at Dice.com on the HealthCallings.com team we had additional columns for QA and for Ready to Release.

The developers can pull items in the To Do column and put them into the In Progress column.  It is important to limit developers Work In Progress or WIP to usually just one item at a time.  In certain cases they may start something and have to stop and can pick something new, but for the most part we should do one thing at a time until it is complete.

2. Planning Board

We put items that are just created on the Planning Board.  We will pull from this planning board when we have a Backlog Grooming meeting.  If you do this it is best to have a Planning Board that moves.  Once an items has been groomed and estimated the process of prioritization is next.  The Product Owner should guide this process and will help the team decide what can move to the Sprint Board with the next Sprint.

3. Burndown Chart

Photo Credit: J'Roo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: J’Roo via Compfight cc


Burndown charts show the progress of completing all assigned tasks by the end of the Sprint.  This chart can take many shapes as a team progresses through its Sprint workload.  If a team is slow to complete anything this chart will show a horizontal line across the chart.  This may be the case for a team with too large of stories that may need to be broken down further.  Burndown charts can warn you early in the Sprint that you may be headed for issues.

If a team starts plowing through its work quickly you may have a line that is almost vertical.  This can be a case where there is not enough work to complete and the team underestimated what it could do.  In this case the team will have an additional Sprint Planning meeting to add more work.

There is an alternative to this called the Burnup chart that works the same way just in reverse.  Either way these help you zero in on date for your next release.  These charts also need to be updated frequently most likely daily too.  You want to provide up to date information to your stakeholders.

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