You’ve decided to create a physical task board for your team. Great! Now the question, what materials are best? White boards, pin boards, sticky notes? I’ve used a range in my time as an agilist, here are my thoughts.
Most teams who have been doing agile for a while with physical boards end up with whiteboards. These can look pretty professional, and have the benefit of being able to draw on them as well.
Some tips to consider if you plan to use a whiteboard.
Prestick and sticky notes don’t stick well to whiteboards, and they end up leaving marks on the board. It’s better (if more expensive) to invest in a magnetic whiteboard and either lot of magnets, or in magnetic task cards. You can buy flexible magnetic vinyl sheets that are erasable like a whiteboard, and cut it up to make task sized cards. It does mean you need to erase the cards each sprint, if you’d prefer not to, just get a bunch of small magnets and then use non-sticky paper (like note cubes) for tasks.
Lots of people use vinyl tape to create lines on their magnetic whiteboards. This is great until you decide to change your columns. The tape ends up marking the boards. A simpler solution is just to draw the lines in a permanent marker, that way they won’t get erased. When you want to move the lines, simply trace over the permanent marker with a whiteboard pen, and magically it erases 🙂
Another thing to consider is getting the whiteboard on wheels, that way you can take your task board into meetings like sprint planning. Personally I find it a bit clunky, and I’d rather have more space by mounting the whiteboard on a wall.
Finally remember to have enough room around your whiteboard for a standup. Lots of people have then on walls between 2 desks, or passage ways and then people struggle to all stand at the board for the daily scrum.
A cheaper alternative to whiteboards is a pin board. Again post-it notes don’t stick well, so you need note cards and lots of pushpins. A tip, make sure the pins you get are easy to use with a plastic head, rather than flat metal drawing pins and that the board is not too hard. I have seen many team members curse with sore fingers from bad pin boards/pins. String is great to use to create lines on a pin board.
A problem I’ve seen with pin boards is that if tasks move around a lot, then the task cards can get a little ragged. A bit of tape over the top where they get pinned can solve this.
One benefit for pin boards is that if you use a tool as well as a physical board, you can print your story cards.
As with whiteboards decide if you want the pinboard to be portable or not. These are definitely a bit easier to make portable than whiteboards, especially if you get a fairly small pinboard. If that’s important to you, this might be a better option.
Walls and Windows
If ordering a whiteboard or pinboard takes 4 weeks of procurement and forms in triplicate, consider just using a wall or window. Masking tape is perfect to create lines, and you can stick stuff to the walls with prestik. Note the prestik will mark the walls and potentially pull off paint, so be sure that’s okay with the office police first 🙂 Again post-it notes don’t stick to walls well, although they stick fantastically to glass, so if you have a window instead of a wall, post-it notes are great.
A simple alternative that we use a lot is just a piece of flipchart paper stuck to the wall with masking tape, then stick the post it notes on to the paper. It works great, and it has the benefits of being easily portable. This is the option we use the most at Growing Agile, check out what our office walls look like.