The longer I teach and coach Scrum, the more I become convinced that the task board is the heart of Scrum. Without the task board there is no center, no focus, no hub. The task board when truly understood becomes the spiritual home of the team, its church if you like. Team members gather around the board to argue, discuss, innovate, to align themselves with each other, to course-correct, to learn, to celebrate.
The task board generates collaboration. It is visual, it is tactile, it is larger than life (it is much, much larger than a computer screen). It stands as a big, visible marker of our progress and of our character. It proclaims who we are as a team. It is our identity. The task board tells the truth, and it spreads the message: we are unafraid.
The task board is often described as the water cooler of the new paradigm. The parallel, while well-meaning is actually doing the task board a disservice. Yes, it is a place to gather, to talk. No, it is not a place to complain, to gossip, to blow off steam. The task board is a place to regenerate oneself, to reconnect, to draw breath. It represents a running towards, not a running away from.
Scrum is the antithesis of the corporate cubicle divide-and-conquer mentality. We don’t need table tennis and foosball to appease us, to create an artificial work-life balance. We don’t need fun as an afterthought to work. Work is fun. We don’t require water cooler moments and cigarette breaks in order to exercise our deep, human need for conversation, for interaction. In Scrum we live this way. All day, every day.
Scrum is about whole people, not about skills. Scrum is not I but we. It is about sharing, learning, continuous improvement, vibrant interaction, passionate collaboration and personal growth. Scrum is about tribes, it is about building community. Each tribal member needs a sense of belonging, a personal quest. Whole tribes need gathering places, they need sacred objects, they need focus and they need pulse. Scrum supports that way of being. The task board, and its emergent environment provides the central life-force from which these things are born.
To live, to truly live, Scrum needs a heart. That heart is the task board. Without it Scrum looks and feels insipid. It is weak, and thin. It loses its focus, and without an outside controller (e.g. coach, champion) to continually pump life into it, the effort will soon dissolve back into the dysfunctional process that it was brought in to replace. Without its heart, Scrum has no power.
One of the kindest services a Scrum Master can do for his/her team and for the organization as a whole is to create transparency. Transparency allows us to see flaws, and when we see the flaws we can make the choice to do something about them. We can stop being victims of process and start being warriors of change.
Xavier Quesada Allue’s Visual Management blog offers many suggestions of how to use the task board to achieve the goal of transparency. Xavier’s work in this area takes the task board from a useful tool to an object of beauty and inspiration. And the way I see it, that is the task board’s rightful place. The heart thrives on love.