Tips for your agile walls

If you have not yet read Agile walls, what are they good for? that might be worth your time before reading this post.

Otherwise dive into some tips for agile walls.

Make them clear

They are supposed to be rough and ready, the lack of polish is what makes them quick and easy to use but they should be clear and make sense the following day and to fresh eyes.

Don’t overcomplicate your wall, take some time to design it upfront which is usually best on paper.

I sketch a rough layout of any wall I want to create prior to getting out the postIt notes and Blutack. This might seem like overkill but it is the work that enables good work. It will help you make the best use of space.

Make them easy

If a team is combining a physical wall with digitals tools (like Trello, Notion, Jira, etc), then that could be why the information you’d expect to see is not visible on the physical walls.

If it becomes too much effort to maintain the physical walls then I’d say they are being over utilised.

To make them easier for people (and better for for a wider audience) my advice is to use the walls to display higher level information that answers the above questions. Put the detail into digital tools.

Don’t break the magic string

When using digital tools, I think the information from digital tools should bubble up and out to the walls. Rather than a live feed, I try to make the physical wall is more like the highlight reel.

That way it is less arduous to maintain parity between the physical and the digital. The information on a physical wall should be a little more permanent and necessitate less frequent change.

This helps people working remote, they can update the physical wall whey they are present or ask for less changes from a colleague who is.

Arun Zachariah, an excellent agile coach I worked with on a government service, had a great expression, he’d say to the team:

“Don’t break the magic string!”

He asked us think of an imaginary ‘magic string’ connecting the physical and digital walls and that we should not put anything on the digital delivery management tools (Trello, Jira, etc) that was not also some how represented on the physical wall.

If you didn’t do that, you would be breaking the magic string that was joining the two and he would fine you actual cash-money that he put in a pot towards charity.

If your team does use both physical and digital walls, my advice is to think carefully about how to use and maintain them so not to let one of them stagnate. Play to their strengths.

The whole team should own their walls

One or two people updating and using a physical wall will likely lead to the rest of the team being disengaged. It needs to be just as much their wall as it is yours.

It is everybody’s responsibility, you should encourage each other to contribute as all team members will have valuable things to share.

Print headings (and constants), handwrite the rest

Lastly, I think it is important to make the walls inviting to others and to feel like some effort has gone into them.

Handwritten headings on scraps of paper or PostIt notes are fine to get going but if they are up more than a week, get them printed.

I have found that stakeholders and outsiders to the team are far more likely to ‘walk your wall’ if they think it is more than just your latest workings-out on the wall, make it so they can clearly see headings and which items relate to each other.