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Post-It Revisited

18 May 2007

A while ago I wrote about my experiences with Scrum and a little helper I like to call “Posty the Post-It note.” Ok, so I don’t actually call it that, but I do use the Post-It extensively when I’m scrumming.

So how has the Post-it fared in the months following my article? I’ll briefly review what has and hasn’t been working and what we’ve been doing to improve our Post-it power.  

Post-it Board
The Post-it board has grown, so much so that it now consists of a 4’ x 6’ white board and a 12’ poster board. So the good news is we’re busy. The bad news is that we are often overwhelmed with the amount of upkeep the Post-it board demands. Ironically the tool we were using to help us get a handle on our workload has now increased it. Sadly, the Post-it board is no longer a place for bragging rights or high-fiving. Now it’s a constant reminder of what I’ve lovingly deemed the “pile.” However, all is not lost. After some discussions with the boss, I’ve convinced the team to only use the board for a few larger projects and to track the smaller projects through other means. We’re still practicing Scrum, but we’re working to minimize the psychological impact of our pile of Post-its.

Lesson learned: If you’re not careful, the Post-it can overwhelm you with its 20,000 friends. Manage your Post-its, and if you’re feeling besieged by bright colored paper, take a deep breath and repeat this mantra, “I’m in control, not the Post-it. You’re not the boss of me, Post-it!”

Post-it Shield
Recently, we added a dedicated ScrumMaster to our team. Essentially, he’s our department’s linebacker. No more outside distractions; if you want to get to one of our Team members, you have to go through him. So every Team member’s cube features a bright orange Post-it that reads, “NEED SOMETHING? GO SEE CHRIS!” It’s not the most subtle method, but it’s helped to drive the point home and allowed our ScrumMaster to run proper interference.

Lessons Learned: My favorite element of Scrum is the ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster protects the Team (pretty neat, huh?), but they can’t do it alone. We use Post-its to help spread the word and shepherd people to our linebacker.

Name Tags
In theory, placing an “Oink, I’m a Pig” or “Cluck, I’m a Chicken” nametag on your colleagues is a great idea. In practice, it can have unintended consequences and result in hurt feelings. While these name tags helped to spur discussion about Scrum, they were discontinued shortly after an unfortunate incident involving a Team member telling a manager, “Hey chicken! No talking during the Daily Scrum!”

Lessons Learned: It’s important to know your role. It’s also important to continually educate coworkers on the merits of the Daily Scrum and other Scrum practices. Just remember that Scrum can be jarring for your colleagues and to be patient while you walk them through the process.

Are Post-its a regular part of your Scrum routine? If so, how?

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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Henri Stegehuis, CSP,CSM, 5/26/2010 12:10:05 PM
Yes and little bit no, the sticky notes, Post-It is trademarked ;), are replaced by the same size paper. While stickies appeared not to stick and we notoriously found some on the floor the next day, we taped them down. But when taping stickies down, a piece of paper with tape is cheaper. We now have in excel a "template" printing 6 cards on an A4 each with an unique task identification, story reference number, of cause the description and an ETC block. All tasks are recorded in an excel sheet for burn down purposes. With one button push the task cards are printed. Consistency guaranteed. A few "empty" task cards are printed on different colour paper for the pop-up/unplanned tasks. We use them a lot and in every project. One thing though, we try to avoid having 1 hour tasks by including them in other tasks if that seems logical. Having a lot of 1 hour tasks increases administration activities in front of the board and afterwards for the recording to much so if possible we group, but again only if possible it is not a goal by itself.
Tom Hall, CSM, 5/26/2010 5:08:59 PM
We use pretty much the same thing with Excel -- print out tasks at the beginning of each sprint. We use tape and paper on a whiteboard with swimlanes. We also use episerver scrum dashboard for a nice online view of the scrum dashboard. This makes it very easy to see status online and to double-check the physical board.
Simon Muggeridge, CSM, 5/26/2010 6:48:59 PM
We went through the pain of Post It notes. They fall off the board and then the cleaners chucked them out. They had illegible scribble on them and often not linked back to the user story. They also took a long time writing them up at the beginning of every Sprint. We now use TFS 2010, which has some great Scrum support, to store our backlogs and export out to an excel template to print and put on the whiteboard using magnets. It is very fast, every project has the same style of tickets, they are colour coded to match the type of resource, (Dev, QA, BA, TS etc) which makes it easy to look at a board and see where the blockers are. Unplanned for tasks are still hand written which helps show that not enough thought went into original planning, if there are a lot of messy Post It notes on the board.

Our Task Tickets have User Story Id, User Story Name, Task Name, Task Id, Estimate Hours, Resource Type. Resource initials and Time Remaining are then hand written.
Jennifer Borek, CSM,CSPO, 5/26/2010 8:33:55 PM
We started with the sticky note. The sticky notes proliferated like rabbits. There were giant post-its with little post-its lining the halls everywhere. They started owning us...

So, yes, we needed to find another way to manage the sticky notes. I think it's a good way to start doing Scrum. But, on large projects or multiple small projects, it gets unsustainable. We progressed to using a tool...Microsoft VSTS. We modified the Work Item Templates to meet our reporting needs and it seems to be working fairly well.

I still like to use Post-Its to start a project, and then we move to automation.
Anonymous, 5/27/2010 1:05:06 AM
We faced issues with the post it's too, but what we did is once it is sticked to the board,we used 2 color indication to mark on the post it to identify the task being done & done, may be by drawing one parallel for being done & the other line for done,since we are not moving the post it often, this worked out.
Lindsay Mack, CSM, 5/27/2010 12:11:03 PM
It has been 2 years since we fully adopted Scrum, and many of our teams have transitioned from using index cards/sticky notes to Web-based software, JIRA+GreenHopper, for various reasons, such as being remotely located and for the automated tracking (e.g., burndown charts). However, one of my teams actually prefers to use both - our story cards and post-its in the Scrum Room, and then having the software always accessible at their desks/home/wherever. While it sounds like a major duplication of effort, we find it's not so bad with our planning process in place (the only major inefficiency is on the PO, who has to document the story and changes to COS in JIRA and on the cards; the template systems mentioned sound fantastic in this regard). In our planning meetings, we have the stories already in JIRA and printed out on the cards for story discussion, estimation, etc. During task planning, one of our team members enters the tasks into JIRA as we go, while another records them on post-it notes. During the sprint, we then update/refer to the paper task board during discussion (which I find less obtrusive than fiddling with logging into JIRA, dragging the tasks across, reassigning them, etc.). The team generally all have JIRA open at their desks as well to refer back to COS, tasks and the like while working, and enter hour tracking/progress for burndown independently. I like that it puts all the information at everyone's fingertips while also facilitating a less tech-y daily scrum, with the added benefit of ensuring more team members have active roles during planning, but admit it definitely takes a full team commitment to make it work.
Aaron Conoly, CSM, 6/1/2010 10:21:21 PM
Jennifer - i love that! "proliferated like rabbits..." and yea, they were getting out of hand (or as you put it, "owning us") on the larger projects.
Lindsay- I like the idea of combining technology and old-school tech (i.e. Post-its) to get the job done!

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