Information is what we use to create knowledge, which drives many of the business and project decisions that keep our corporations afloat. In the Agile and Scrum world, information is shared with all stakeholders and is something that is not coveted but shared with anyone who wants it. We call these Information Radiators, because they involve not only the information required, but a method for sharing this information in a way that maximizes value.
Information Radiators can be defined as large displays of relevant project information located in a highly viable area. The term was coined by Alistair Cockburn in 2001 after he saw many organizations following a pattern of storing information in "information refrigerators". The information was hidden, hard to access, and often in the control of one or few individuals. I recall one project 20 years ago where we needed to gain access to some information for a status report, and the person who created the file (and knew where it was located) was on leave and we had to wait until they came back to create the report. It seems insane now, but you may be surprised to know that this practice still exists today in many organizations.
Some examples of Information Radiators include velocity charts, burndown charts, threats and issues, WIP, features in the current release, and the list goes on. The key is that they are "low tech, high touch" tools that promote collaboration between team members and also transparency with stakeholders.
So why has information been so hard to get to, and for so long before Information Radiators came along? Why haven't we always used Information Radiators? Well the simple answer is, we have!
Information Radiators existed long before Agile, Scrum, XP and Lean every saw the light of day. Many of us used Information Radiators for years before ever hearing about any of these practices. Where? In our schools of course. It seems teachers were smarter than many of our managers today because they saw the true value of Information Radiators in the learning, development and collaboration of school children.
As you can see from the picture above, information is "radiated" through large, bight and colorful displays. It invites children to explore and interact. I have seen similar schools where children use sticky notes and large pieces of paper to create and display a wide variety of information.
How did we go from that to hiding, coveting and controlling information in the business world? Well, there are many theories why and most of them are probably related to fear and greed. Fear of becoming less relevant if we can't control the information, and greed because having the keys to the kingdom (of information) invariably meant that we were paid more.
I call this practice ICE: Information Coveting Extreme. Instead of radiating information to whom it is best intended, we instead lock it up and freeze its knowledge-sharing powers.
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So how can we be better custodians of information and not repeat the same mistakes we made in the past? Well, don't keep information on ICE for a start. Let it grow and blossom in the sunlight. Unless it is a matter of national security or corporate competitiveness, information should be relevant, visible and shared.
Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!