Thursday, 8 December 2016

Story Cards 2.0

A while back I was exploring some other options for story cards. In a previous blog, I mentioned that making it super easy to create stories was not necessarily a good thing.

So, I bought a few things and started some experiments.

My first cut of this was to laminate a card, the idea being that I could re-use them. 1 pack of A6 lamination pouches later and I had something that looked pretty good!

The first stumbling block was what to write on them with. In my first cut, I used OHP marker pens which are 'semi-permanent'. I eventually found out that meant they could be wiped off with a damp cloth - which sounded perfect! Or so I thought...

Version 1.1 - getting there!
The problem is that OHP markers smudge like crazy. My test bunnies complained that they ended up with black smudges over the cards and their hands.

"Can't we use sharpies instead?". Hmmmm.

After a bit of Googling, I found that standard sharpies can be wiped of with Isopropyl Alcohol - useful to know if you have habit of writing on whiteboards with them! Having a bottle of this kicking around the office did not seem like a good idea but I found you can buy Isopropyl Wipes pretty cheaply.

So we have now have a re-usable card and something to write on them with and wipe it off again. In my experiments, I also found chalk pens were a viable option but they don't come in black so it would depend on your card colour. I like both sharpies and chalk pens but sharpies win since we have tonnes of them laying about the place. Chalk pens are a bit pricey but are hard to rub off once dry.

We started with just using good ol' fashioned Bluetack to stick these to the board but I hated the way they often ran out of stick and then fell off, so I looked for an alternative. I have experimented in the past with Scotch Restickable Dots which are pretty good but also eventually run out - they can also be too sticky, making it hard to move things.

We started by using magnets which worked great but looked terrible - you obviously need a magnetic board, which might be a problem. After a bit more Googling, there have clearly been many innovations with magnets since I was a lad - I found rolls of self adhesive magnets, which could be cut to size. This allowed me to make the cards self sticking by adding these to the back:

Self Sticking magnetised story cards
So now we have stickable, movable, re-usable, templated story cards. I created a few in different colours to denote different work streams and the team started using them. We also used the magnets on the avatars and our other icons we use to show items that are blocked, paused etc.

By making the cards 'hard' to create we can easily tell what we planned to do and what we decided to add to our board during the sprint. We can then use this information in the retro and find out what is wrong e.g. prioritisation, support issues, emergencies, rogue work items.

A side effect of the cards being hard to create means that there is a finite stock of them - you can't keep adding them. This got absorbed into our process and we try to get the stories as small as possible so we can re-cycle the cards during the sprint for another story - the side effect of which is that the work in progress is also limited.

So there you have it, story cards 2.0 - have you tried anything similar?