Varying Your Scrum Board

In a post from December, I covered Scrum board basics. The most basic version of a Scrum board is one that has three columns, one each for Backlog, Work in Progress (WIP), and Done. Let’s take it up a notch today with some tips for personalizing your board:

1. Call the backlog column whatever you want – Projects, Active Now, On Deck (like Dr. Katie Linder does), Priorities, etc. While “backlog” is the prescribed term for software Scrum, most Agile Faculty are not doing software Scrum. If backlog sounds to technical or mechanistic to you, choose your own term.

2. Add another column BEFORE the backlog – you might do this for one of two reasons (that I can think of): to move the project/story titles out of the backlog column in order to make more space OR to add additional sticky notes representing incoming projects or new ideas that you want to keep in mind for later.

3. Add another column between WIP and Done called Feedback or Waiting – many projects that we do get handed off for feedback and leave us in a holding pattern, whether that be feedback from an editor, colleague, grant funder, administrator, etc. This happens a lot in software, so they will often have a column labeled “in testing” or something similar. Keeping a sticky note that says something like “waiting for feedback from X as of <date>” in this additional column reminds you the project is active, if out of your hands, and dating it reminds you to check in if the feedback has been outstanding for too long.

4. Color code! So this is just aesthetic, but I like to go to the office supply store each semester and choose the color scheme for my next board. I buy multiple sizes to denote epics, stories, and tasks and use one color per project (up to six, then I usually have to repeat a color). Also helpful if a sticky falls off and you have to figure out where it came from.

5. Use a piece of art paper or a folder to make it physically portable – If you are peripatetic and not in one office regularly, you can still create a scrum board on the inside of a manila folder or on a large, foldable piece of art paper, Instant, cheap Scrum board. This is also a good way to have students make Scrum boards for course projects. If you do this, I highly recommend sticky notes that have full adhesive backs rather than just an adhesive strip so your tasks don’t fall off every time you fold or open.

What useful modifications have you made to your Scrum board?

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