Posts Tagged post-its
At first glance, this is not a board hack. I’ve been working more and more with remote teams lately, and that makes the use of physical, easily hackable materials much more difficult. So my concept of a hack has altered slightly. What ‘hacks’ to the physical process will make it work for a team that is not co-located?
I’ve run retros where a couple of team members have been remote. And I always make sure to enable them to participate as fully as possible in the physical sticky note activities – by getting them to message/slack.text them to me so I can write them up. But what about when everyone is remote? What happens then? Last week I ran my first retro where the entire team was remote. That’s right, not one of us was in the same room!
So my beloved post-it notes were replaced with a tool called stickies.io. It lets everyone log into a shared ‘wall’ where they can individually create sticky notes, then we can group them, vote on them and discuss them. We used Google hangouts, with chat and also Slack for text communication. It certainly was not as good as a physical interaction, but it turned out better than I expected.
What did we learn?
- The experience was “equalizing” – we all learned what it felt like to be someone working remotely. Usually this team has 4 or 5 people co-located, and they tend to get most of the air time in meetings, having everyone remote meant the interactions were more equal.
- Facilitating when you can’t see people’s faces is difficult. It took a while to get used to scanning Hangouts, watching the chat, Slack and reading the sticky notes. Practice makes perfect!
- We had to turn off video because the connection was dropping out. This improved the connection, but the facilitating was even harder.
- stickies.io is tricky to use on a small screen with so many people (easy to stick notes on top of one another, and group them by mistake). But it is infinitely scalable so a big screen made a big difference.
- For me, the cognitive load of interacting with the technology (typing, organising stickies) whilst facilitating was much more difficult than dealing with physical post-its, so having a second person move the sticky notes around and another capture actions while I facilitated helped a lot. This will probably get easier the more time I do it.
- It’s can be to tell who someone is from their stickies.io avatar, especially if it doesn’t match their Slack and their Hangouts avatars. Next time we might preface each sticky with the author’s name.
- We were pretty good at not talking over each other. This team is used to having 3 or 4 remote members at any one time, so they are aware of this already, if you’ve working with a team not used to this then you might need some tactics to combat it.
stickies.io has a handy feature that allows the facilitator to switch the board to incognito mode so that everyone can focus on just their own stickies – solo brainstorming. Of course, there’s always someone who wants to game the system, so in less than a minute one of our developers had hacked this too. Not quite the kind of hack I hope for…
Funnliy, for someone who uses so many post it notes, I have never asked myself this question. (I am a little embarrassed by this since ‘Why?’ is such a fundamental question in Agile Coaching!} Today, by accident, I discovered the answer.
In a book for Agile stationery-lovers everywhere, The Perfection of the Paper Clip, author James Ward reveals the answer:
“The Post-it note came about by accident, really. There was a guy called Spencer Silver, who was working at 3M. He was trying to come up with a really strong glue. Unfortunately, he got the formula wrong and created a very, very weak glue, which is not much use if you’re a company that sells glue. There was another colleague there called Art Fry, who as well as working for 3M, he was in a choir, and he used to use little pieces of paper to mark the pages in his hymn book. And those bits of paper would keep falling out, and he thought, oh, if only there was some kind of weak glue that I could use to stick these bits of paper in the book … and that’s how the Post-it note was born.”
Ironically, a solution looking for a problem!
Did you know there’s a wrong way and a right way to use a post-it?
If you peel them off the pack upwards from the bottom corner, they tend to just curl up and fall off the wall – especially with modern paints which seem to be chemically engineered to repel anything. I noticed half my retros were ending up on the floor and I spent a lot of time picking up pesky post-its and slamming them back up on the wall, only to watch them fall again. I was like that clown at the circus, running from spinning plate to plate, trying to keep them all in the air. Then someone showed me the right way – peel them off the pack sideways to avoid adding any curl. Your post-its will stay stuck much longer.
Bart Vermijlen explains it really well here: http://www.bartvermijlen.com/how-to-peel-of-a-sticky-note/
Index Cards and Post-its. Whiteboards. These are our utensils. We spend our days with them. We write on them, stick em on walls, we photograph them. We write them up. Hundreds of them. I spend so much time with them that they even invade my dreams. I think if I see those 5 pukey index card colours for another year though, I’m going to have to kill someone. Ergh.
Slickynotes stick to smooth surfaces by static electricity. I tried them on glass and painted walls and they seem to stick about as well as post-its. They don’t have adhesive on them which means that they are usable on both sides. As an added bonus, one side is erasable if you use whiteboard markers, much like a whiteboard or those flexible magnetic index cards. Another bonus is that these are re-usable – we do generate a lot of waste with all our post-its.
Slickynotes come in two sizes – the smallish ones are 100mm x 74mm, and the medium-sized ones are 200mm by 100mm.
I have some of these, and I’ve played with them, but I haven’t had a chance to try them out in a real life work setting yet. A colleague swears by them though so I think they are worth a try.