The Power of Physical Board

Yes you have read that right! Today I would like to put some light on why we still talk about physical boards in this era of digitization.

Is there any ‘POWER’ in using Physical boards after all? We will see…

In my entire agile journey, there always have been a strong debate on using physical board vs digital tools and everyone were right from their perspectives. I have experience both of them. Sometimes together and sometimes only one of them and both have their own pros and cons.

However, from my personal experience, I am a huge fan of Physical Boards and it is not limited to only the sprint scrum/Kanban board or team level. The amazing part is, we can turn any virtual/online boards into physical boards and at any level.

We can even turn our daily work into visuals of physical boards to get an honest view of what we are up-to for that day. (For me, I also have my personal physical board with my ToDo tasks, action Items with their tracking status, which guides me to make things done).

So, without further explanations let us dive into the facts of why we should give it a try to use Physical Board especially in AGILE world, if not done yet:

It promotes collaboration and conversation

Technology does not get in the way. No one is hiding behind a computer during planning or daily scrums for example. No worries about connections, projectors and so on. We can actually have face-to-face conversations.

In addition, it makes the person more ‘present’ in the particular event.

Also, the act of writing and collaborating will create a greater joint understanding. It becomes the hub of information for the team. The hub for communication and collaboration.

It is a focal point

A Physical board is visual and it’s BIG. You can see at a glance how things are going. The VISIBILITY is unbeatable.

It is also flexible. Infinitely FLEXIBLE. You can put literally anything you like on it. Wherever you like.

It promotes transparency

The physical board is a great “information radiator,” providing visibility and TRANSPARENCY into what everyone is working on without the need to log into a tool.

Information radiators are visual displays that provide insight and transparency of the current state, scenario or process as a snapshot. What makes it effective is when the information that is conveyed through the display, is important to the viewer and will inspire the viewer to take action.

The main benefit is that it promotes responsibility among the team members. Secondly, it tend to provoke conversation when outsiders visit, which can yield useful ideas.

It gets updated

There is nothing more satisfying than physically grabbing a story card and moving it from Doing to Done. Celebrate the moment!

In addition, maintaining physical boards is a worthwhile effort to facilitate meaningful feedback, spot risks early, and get help from team members.

It is also more tactile

For people that like tactile, it feels good to move a card to done. You feel a sense of ownership when you pick up a card. It’s also novel. When a team starts doing agile – and they create great visibility using the whiteboard.

Its visible nature can prompt people to remember things when they see them, rather than relying on their memory to go and look somewhere else that’s out of sight.

They are mainly soft factors, I admit, but I think a physical board is hard to beat.

Final Thoughts

I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone should abandon using virtual boards and purely rely on physical boards. After all, Scrum is all about adapting the framework to whatever works for your team, and if virtual boards are working, then that's great.

The point here is that physical boards can and do still play a vital role in Scrum. They offer benefits for the team that a virtual board simply can't.

Don’t get rid of your online tool, that’s critical for enterprise organization. However, do grab a chunk of wall space and use your blue tape to create a physical board.

You can be even more productive and generate a better, finished product.

Don’t take my word for it, try it for a sprint or two and see what the retrospective says.