Monday, August 31, 2015

sometimes the physical is better

At work we use JIRA for task management and generally to manage the sprint. I can say we try to use most of the features available on JIRA but we haven't gotten around to all the features yet. But for the past few months we have replicate the JIRA board to a physical board. Our setup is a white board. The JIRA tickets are mirrored as sticky notes of different color depending on the type of JIRA ticket it is i.e. bug, story. The whiteboard is marked with a grid representing the different transitions we have defined on JIRA.

At the beginning of this whiteboard move the developers struggled with the idea of replicating JIRA on a whiteboard. "We already have JIRA. We just need to check JIRA.", they said. Whenever a developer would transition a ticket on JIRA they would then have to transition it on the whiteboard. It honestly felt like doing double work. During the day, as we worked, developers would have to wake up from their seats and walk all the way to the whiteboard and move the sticky note.

But what we did not realise is that the waking up and walking to the whiteboard created a subconscious sense of awareness of progress. From a distance every developer could easily see the tickets that are in progress. Whenever developers would rise up to move tickets on the whiteboard this act would capture the attention of other developers and each dev can see which ticket has just changed state. Our whiteboard ,however, did not mirror all the transition states on JIRA. It would be ridiculous to mirror every state. Devs would spend the whole day walking around the office in an attempt to ensure that JIRA mirrored the whiteboard.

Holding discussion in front off the whiteboard proved very profitable. Developers can point at specific physical tickets that form the subject of the discussion. Tickets can be prioritised easily since a developer can move the ticket to the top. Using a whiteboard also allows us to draw around the tickets. If a ticket needs to be flagged because something went wrong , we can draw something around it or alongside it.

Another upside of the whiteboard is that developers get to exercise :). It's not cool to seat in one position for the whole day. It's actually unhealthy.

There are teams that can work very well with . But for the team I am now part of, having a whiteboard has changed the way we do our work. Try it. It might just work for you.

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