Alistair Cockburn coined the term “information radiator” to refer to “a display posted in a place where people can see it as they work or walk by.” Most teams that implement Scrum will create an information radiator to help manage their work. They will find a corkboard, whiteboard or empty wall space and post information about their sprint backlog items for all to see. In effect what they are doing is creating a highly visible communication device known as a pull system. Contrary to a push system, where you push out information to distribution lists, pull systems have multiple advantages.
Advantages of pull systems:
- They promote transparency – With a push system the only people who get information about your project are the ones on your distribution list. Not that you are trying to hide information, but it is the nature of the beast. With a pull system, everything is out in the open; anyone who walks by can take a look and see the same information about what is going on.
- They reduce administrative burden – It may not seem like a big deal to create a status report and e-mail it out to a distribution list, but after being a manager/project manager for years it does begin to wear on you. With an information radiator, any team member can make status updates to the board; therefore the load of keeping the status updated is shared amongst everyone on the team.
- They facilitate communication – Many Scrum teams choose to hold their daily standup meeting in front of their information radiators. Instead of giving only a verbal update, they can also visually demonstrate what has transpired. This additional bandwidth helps foster clearer communication amongst the development team members.
As you can see a pull system has some key advantages that you can exploit when practicing Scrum. For most of us this will represent a mindset shift because we have been using a push system for years. I have always had positive results whenever implementing an information radiator with both pigs (Scrum team members) and chickens (stakeholders) alike. The pigs like having a better sense of who is doing what when (tactical), and the chickens like to see the overall big picture (strategic). Interested in creating a pull system (aka information radiator) for your team? There are countless examples of information radiator’s on the net. If you would like an example, Google the term “Scrumboard” and see what you get.
By: Brian M. Rabon, an ASPE-SDLC instructor who is a CSM, CSP, MSEE and PMP. Brian is also the president of The Briantrust Consulting Group. You can read his blog, find him on Facebook, and connect with him on Linkedin or Twitter. Brian is a regular contributor to the ASPE-SDLC Blog and a thought leader in the fields of Agile and Traditional Project Management as it applies to Software Development.