Aug 28

Stickies don’t suck

A colleague of mine showed me something he found on the internet. A scrum board made of suction cups and little shields. All very nice divided on a glass window. The backside has patterns that make it nice to look at on the other side. My first reply was….wtf. When I read the blog and the idea behind it, I was even more shocked. It looks very nice but it completely missed every point about a scrum board, agile and the purpose of it all.  Jurgen Appelo, who visited this company, describes it as “A scrum board that really sucks”.

The creator claims that working with sticky notes does not work. It makes a messy board and they fall down like leaves in the autumn. The second thing is that now they can look at who is lagging within the team. Normally I’m not bashing other scrum masters and their way of working, but this one wend against every agile fiber in my scrum body. Let me explain why. Scrum is about working together and getting the most value out of a project. The tools are just that. Tools. You can use brownpaper, stickies, butterflies, smurfs or whatever works. But they work best when you can use them agile. Rearrange them. Throw them away. Eat them. Wipe your ass with it or what ever to get things done. Turning your board in some sort of artwork does not help. The board you can see here has Project manager all over it; it is a need and tidy thing. It is not open to quick rearranging items. It is office decoration. Where is the fun in ripping up stories that are done or not needed anymore? A scrum room needs to be vibrant and alive. Where every wall is a information radiator (Google that one just for fun) It has to have a people factor all over it, not an art gallery atmosphere.

And it is complete nonsense that sticky notes flutter down like autumn leaves. If that happens you are simply using them wrong. Don’t pull them of like a paper of a calendar but peal them off sideways. I have stickies hanging that have been moved a couple of times. But they are up there for more then six months (no not the work items, just some additions information). I never experience the sticky note autumn. Have a look at this video that I made.

For crying out loud, it is one of the main tools you are working with, learn to use it the right way.

But lets look at another thing that is written in the blog of VI Company. Sorry guys, but you had this one coming. With the scrum board they can easily follow the progress of the project and which team members are “lagging behind”. Excuse me. Is it a tool to monitor individuals and their progress? I thought that working with scrum encourages teamwork and therefore there is no individual lagging. If someone does not do the job, it is up to the team to do something about this. What happens within the team stays with the team. Share the burden.

Ok. Enough bashing. I don’t want to burn this company and it’s employees to the ground and start a crusade against the wrong use of scrum tools. Everybody has his or her way in getting things done.Hell, I would even love to have a look in their kitchen to see how this works for them. But let’s focus on what matters, the delivery of valuable work and not the correct use of tools. It would turn me into a scrum fanatic and that is something I would like to stay away from. But please don’t turn these tools into art and the office space into a museum. They are not to please the board of director or the office cleaning staff. If you want to bake an omelet you have to break some eggs. Make a mess, please. And do this as a team, it is more fun that way.

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  • Maurice le Rutte

    Hmm…. Who’s going to believe my yesterday’s story now?

    • True Maurice. Who am I to blow against the wind. The board of VI Company seems to work for them. They are proud of it and I would honestly love to have a closer look. Agile is not fixed, you can play with it and try to get it to work in ways it may suit your project or company. I do have questions for VI about their individual approach (the lagging thing) and even the on hold column on their board. But let’s make one thing clear. I’m open for new stuff and ideas. I have thrown the so called glove, maybe they are willing to pick it up and prove me wrong. I will humbly admit it when I am.

      VI company. Are you keen for an open kitchen?

      • Niels Talens

        And just to be clear. They certainly are open for an open kitchen. The first in the hopefully long series of OpenAgileKitchens : http://www.meetup.com/agilethings/events/80240672/

  • Hi Erwin, That lagging behind thing was a joke 🙂 Of
    course we don’t use it that way. And indeed when you stick the post-its
    sideways the don’t fall off(except the colored ones from Hema, these fall off whatever you do ) , I remember we even talked about that last year during
    the Agile Open in Dieren. Sticky notes work fine, but we
    got bored of them and wanted to try something else. What wrong with trying new
    things in an agile world?


    I think you take my blog post far to serious. Our
    Scrum board is something we came up with after using Scrum a couple of years
    and we wanted to implement the Scrum board in a “fun” way in our new
    office. You are more than welcome to come and check it out yourself here in

    • Hi Ivo, You have made me curious. Would you be open for a view of you kitchen? I would like to have a look at your wall and the way you guys are handling things. And if fun is envolved even more.

      • Ofcourse! We can host an open kitchen for 10 people