Agile Management and Low-Tech Communications - dummies

Agile Management and Low-Tech Communications

By Mark C. Layton

Particularly when you first implement an agile management system, keep the communication tools low tech. Rely on face-to-face conversations and good old-fashioned pen and paper. Low-tech promotes informality, allowing scrum team members to feel that they can change work processes and be innovative as they learn about the product.

Tackling problems in person is the best way to encourage quality production:

  • Have short daily meetings in person. Some scrum teams stand throughout to discourage meetings from running longer than 15 minutes.

  • Ask the product owner questions. Also, make sure the product owner is involved in discussions about product features to provide clarity when necessary.

  • Communicate with your co-workers. If you have questions about features, the project’s progress, or integrating code, communicate with co-workers. The entire development team is responsible for creating the product, and team members need to talk throughout the day.

As long as the scrum team is in close proximity, you can use physical and visual approaches to keep everyone on the same page. The tools should enable everyone to see

  • The goal of the sprint

  • The functionality necessary to achieve the sprint goal

  • What has been accomplished in the sprint

  • What’s coming next in the sprint

  • Who is working on which task

  • What remains to be done

Only a few tools are needed to support this low-tech communication:

  • A white board or two (mobile — on wheels or lightweight). Nothing beats a white board for collaboration. The scrum team can use one for brainstorming solutions or sharing ideas.

  • A huge supply of sticky notes in different colors including poster-sized ones for communicating critical information you want readily visible — such as architecture, coding standards, and the project’s definition of done.

    Give each developer at least one tabletop dry erase/sticky notepad combination with a lightweight easel. These tools are very low cost and facilitate communication fantastically.

  • Lots of colorful pens.

Whatever tools you use, avoid spending time making things look neat and pretty. Formality in layout and presentation (what you would often call pageantry) can give an impression that the work is tidy and elegant. However, the work is what matters, so focus your energy on activities that support the work.