Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waste of space! Or Why today’s electronic Scrum tools does not work!

I like computers. I like how they enable me to dream up things I could never have imagined, let me indulge in information from far and wide and communicate with my friends wherever whenever. I also like pen and paper (and whiteboards, coloured pens, index cards, post-it notes etc). And I like to communicate in real life!

As a coach in Scrum and team building I know what works for me in the small local team. We use all kinds of stickers, pens, flipcharts, post-its and what have you to make sure that information is radiant, free and flowing all the time. The ease of use and the unbelievable flexibility that these tools offer are probably endless. What I don’t like is stuff that interferes with this process, cramp it and my steal energy and time. Computerised Scrum tools are such tools! At least the ones I’ve tried so far.

I can understand why my clients wish their distributed organisations had the same flow as the single co-located team. I can also understand the problem with using my analogue tools over large distances. I can even understand, although I question this sometimes, the need to “document” stuff. But I can not accept the impacts it has on us. The tools often are extremely developer centric with all kinds of nifty features but not very flexible at all (also called waste in Lean). They force you into a, for me, unintuitive behaviour and after two hundred and forty eleven clicks I give up. It just takes way too much time to change a simple little number, add a special mark, or group a bunch of stories. Comments like “if froze for some reason and turned upside down”, “he’s the owner of that task but did not notice” and “the story is not in there, I can’t see it” simply never occur with analogue tools. If you add a story it’s there, right in front of you. You can touch it, change it and even remove it! And if you get short on time and need to rearrange, specially mark or add some info to a story it’s so intuitive that (believe it or not) someone without Scrum knowledge knows how to do this!

Don’t get me wrong, there is a need for digital Scrum tools. But it is not a trivial task to create them! I think we need to rethink how our Scrum tools work and which parts of the process it makes sense to digitalise. And we need to stop waste time, space and energy on repetitive tasks in tools that does not support agile thinking and behaviour! 

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