The Renaissance of Paper for Agile Software Development


it sparks their interest.

Handling index cards, getting up to move a card from “Test Ready” to “Done” writing a new role on a note card, and drawing a burn-down graph on the whiteboard employ our cognitive and volitive systems. [v] Being physically active and using that activity to visibly change artifacts on a whiteboard seems to make it easier for those involved to accept a new way of doing things. 
Most information radiators are hung on a wall, making it easy for passersby to see them. The prominent display of all the available information makes it unnecessary for the passersby to ask questions; as they pass by, the information simply hits them. It takes very little energy to look at the display to gather all the information they need, it is visible.

The presence of big whiteboards filled with colorful cards, super sticky notes posted to screens and desks, and larger Post-It notes trigger the curiosity of those not directly involved. Much like the presence of a picture on a wall might force us to stop to have a better look, the convenience of it simply being present draws attention to it and captivates us. Burn-down charts are the most popular artifacts to draw attention; test reports, sprint-backlogs can be important ones as well. 

Big whiteboards, colorful cards, innovative application of physical constraints on stationery, and complete visibility do not only trigger curiosity but open our mind to accept and appreciate change that we can be a part of. Psychologically reinforcing that we can get things “done” index cards and super sticky notes are not only fun to work with but might offer the better ROI in the long run. There is no up-front investment in education needed and the likelihood for a whiteboard to not work is fairly small. Trying a low-tech solution before aiming for electronic tools in a co-located environment is a cost-effective, smart, and fun solution when aiming to introduce agile frameworks.

About the Author
David Hoehn is one of the thought leaders for Conchango around Agile Service Engagements. David has served for the past 1 1/2 years as an agile coach and innovative thinker around human nature and change. David specializes in welcoming change and how to convince organizations to create a whole new environment in which agile frameworks can grow and thrive. Putting a focus on Scrum in an enterprise environment rather than only for software development. David is known for making his work his passion.

[i] As suggested, see

[ii] Cockerill, I. M. (Dec 1995). Self-esteem development through participation in physical activity. Journal of Workplace Learning , 14-17.

[iii] Krakovsky, M. (2007, April). STANFORD Magazine: March/April 2007 gt; Features gt; Mind-set Research . Retrieved April 2, 2007, from STANFORD Magazine:

[iv] Alistair Cockburn - Agile Software Development: Software Through People ISBN: 0201699699.

[v] These are the regions in our brain which make up the motor system, extrapyramidal system, pyramidal tract, alpha and gamma system.

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