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Information Radiators

The phrase 'information radiator' is probably one of the best phrases in agile. It succinctly portrays the ethos of agile in as far as it's about making things visible as well as conjuring up a mental picture of disseminating information amongst the team relating to what's going on.

During a stand up recently it occurred to me what information you make visible is only part of the story - where you make it visible is as equally important.

As an example, as part of our delivery process we have three sets of information to show:

  1. The contents of our various backlogs (defects, tech debt, stories, etc.)
  2. How the backlogs are prioritised against each other to filter work into the Kanban board
  3. How work is flowing through the team's delivery board.

When you think of the above as steps in the project delivery process there is a definite sequence to them - you need backlogs (1) before you can funnel the work into a single list (2)  and you need a single list of prioritised work before you can deliver it (3).

However when considered from an information radiator point of view, the three areas are completely separate, and could theoretically be displayed anywhere. For example the process of triaging defects and maintain a defect backlog for the project happens independently (and usually with different stakeholders)  to the daily rituals involved in delivering the fixes.

We're currently fortunate enough to have the wall space to visualise the three groups of information closely together - as shown in the video below (created whilst trying out the new nutshell mobile app from the guys at Prezi).

By displaying the information radiators next to each other, it clearly shows the context of how the various steps in our process hang together. As well as helping us explain how we work to visitors (we physically walk them through the various stages!), it also helps keep people grounded in the end to end process and stop the team just concentrating on the part of it they are currently working on.

So whether you are using physical boards, monitors and graphs, dashboards or any other type of information radiators - do you think about where they are placed and how they all interact with each other, or are they just put up where you find some free space?

Posted in Agile, Project Delivery, Visualisation.