The Blue Peter problem

A colleague recently posted (on an internal wiki, so unfortunately I can’t link to it) about the problem of people thinking that common agile “tools” such as whiteboards, index cards, freehand burndown graphs etc are a bit “Blue Peter,” and therefore not professional. He made a good suggestion, which was that you provide teams that are new to agile with official branded materials (story cards, pre-printed blank burndown charts and so on). They will accept these more readily, and will then embrace the underlying ideas and start using any old flipchart or whiteboard.

Here’s another argument for simplicity – admittedly from the world of TV fiction – which I’d put to people who think low-tech solutions are somehow not fit for purpose.

In Without a Trace, the FBI have all the technology they could wish for (including some that by rights they ought to still be wishing for, because it contravenes the laws of physics). They can trace a phone call and see the caller’s exact location on a 3D model of a building. They can read a person’s name badge from a grainy low resolution CCTV still. They can call up amazing details about anyone they’re interested in at the touch of a button. They have computers that can match a partial print against a database of millions of people, and still have enough spare CPU to display the photo of each person as it checks.

So what hi-tech wizardry do they use to track the current progress on the case they’re working on? Let’s see…

Without a Trace timeline

Similarly, in House they have all the latest medical technology, and up-to-the minute lab facilities. Their patient records are presumably all computerised (as an aside, what crazy company would sign up for that kind of project, I wonder?)

Again, they’re going to use the absolute best solution available to record and discuss the symptoms of their latest patient, aren’t they? Again, the answer is yes, and here it is:

House's whiteboard

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