Sunday, March 11, 2012

Agile and Post-Its

For many,  Agile projects and Post-Its are synonyms, and do you agree this is a misconception ?.
This misconception has gone to such an extreme that, some believe that if you are not using post-it notes then you are not Agile. This looks funny for many Agilists, but this belief is true with many newbies.  One might be interested to understand the origin of this misconception.  Let us start with Information radiators.

Information Radiators

Information radiators are not a new concept. Lean thinkers and Toyota teams have been using this from many years. This concept was popularized in the Agile world by  Alistair Cockburn through his book Agile Software Development.   Since Post-its are handy and easy to use they became popular as information radiators across the globe.

In my opinion, Information radiators are just like any other tools. As the Agile manifesto says,
“Individuals and interactions over process and tools”.   So, one needs to be cautious of using the tools appropriately.

Now we know that Post-Its are just like any other tools. One should be cognizant of their usage in Agile projects. Even though, I have taken the example of using Post-Its here, this is applicable to all tools. Let us see some uses of Post-its.

Teams use Post-It notes to display

  • the status of User Stories (Analysis, Design, Build, testing, etc)
  • the quality stats
  • Impediments/Risks/Issues
  • etc.

My experience says that teams reject tools or the tools become unusable if

  • wrong tools are used even in the right context
  • If the right tools used in a wrong way

Especially, tools play a key role in large scale and long term Agile projects.

Large Scale and long term Agile projects

In the long term projects, over use of Post-its leads to what I am terming as “Post-It Noise”. The wall not only gets cluttered, but people will stop updating the walls.  There are a few who have reported stress due to the cluttering of wall due to unplanned growth of Post-its on the wall. 

I am not against using the Post-it notes  however one needs to be cognizant of  maintainability of them on the walls.  A wall with a beautiful display of Post-it not only adds value but gives a pleasant look.



  • Use Post-It notes based on need. If the teams are comfortable using flipcharts, White boards, let them use it. Don’t force people to use Post-It notes for every task.
  • Arrange Post-its or cling on sheets in a pleasant way
  • If you find the teams not updating the wall, do a retro and see if the wall is really adding value

Useful resources

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