Information radiators can help stakeholders remain informed and can reduce effort spent by a team in handling requests for updates but to reap these benefits we must ensure that the information published meets their needs.
As with any type of communication, if the content published cannot be trusted due to obvious inaccuracies or a lack of currency, stakeholders will cease to consult the radiators and will demand that traditional reporting methods are re-established.
Such defects will also reduce the credibility of the team in the eyes of the stakeholders.
This is one more reason to ensure that if Kanban boards or other work visualization views are made accessible to stakeholders outside a delivery team that team members are diligent in updating them while work is being done rather than after the fact.
If an information radiator generates more questions than it answers, it will become a burden for the delivery team. Not only does this mean that legends, titles, and thresholds are clearly presented, but it also requires that any information which could be misinterpreted should be accompanied with some context so that stakeholders get the correct story.
For example, if a sprint burn down chart is being published daily and by the midpoint of the sprint it appears that very little has been completed, a stakeholder might reasonably assume that the team is going to complete significantly less than what had been agreed to during sprint planning. However, if some context is provided that the team’s delivery process includes an independent review by an external inspector who is only available one or two days per sprint, this apparent lack of progress might be perfectly acceptable.
This also means that we should review what is being published to ensure that stakeholders can perceive the forest as well as the trees.
Publishing a sprint burn down chart or Kanban board without providing a team’s Definition of Done is only part of the story. Posting a release burn up chart without indicating what is being delivered in the release will not promote shared understanding.
Finally, it’s important to educate stakeholders so they can effectively pull information from the information radiators and to set expectations that radiators are to be consulted as the first source for updates.
Poor information radiators are a constant reminder of George Bernard Shaw’s caution that “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”