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Why use avatars for scrum team members? (Part 1)

Before we even get near this, you really have to be using a physical visible story board. Especially for a new team. Here are a few reasons why (expect more detail in will come up again in a later blog)

• It help visualise what the state of things are, what needs doing, and what has been. I
• It is easy to change the layout. Especially for a team new to kanban/scrum the layout can & will change
• Easy to update, and most important, keep up to date, it is interactive
• It is a single place to jot down things live targets, velocity, Definition of done, off-lines , ...
• It is the place to hold the daily stand-up as well as any other story related conversations. The board is updated there and then!

By all means use additional tools to compliment the board. In fact there is no doubt that you will have to additional tools for things like performance metrics, budget reports, release planning, bug tracking and whatever other distractions may come your way. The important thing to note though is that the visible board must always be the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth. If you have an electronic version of the board, it must be kept in sync with the physical board, never the other way round.

The first time I proposed this, it was deemed to be childish. Some of the comments were, ‘ What’s wrong with my name?’, ’Why even have something on the board, lets just write it on the card.’, ‘What’s the point?’, as well as a few other choice ones I am not going to publish. Once we started to use then though the attitude changed and everybody had creative, unique representative avatars.

Put simply, it creates visibility and promotes ownership which delivers results.

Granted everyone owns all the code, but when you are busy building that beautifully crafted cornerstone of a much larger masterpiece you need to make sure that whoever is doing the building is made visible. This does a few things:

It makes sure that it is easy to find out who to talk to if you have a question, it is easy to see who is working on what during the day and at the daily stand-up, it gives them the bragging rights and makes them feel valuable and valued.

It also encourages commitment. You are making it highly visible and obvious to everyone, who it is that is expected to deliver. The result of this is ‘People are depending on me, I am going to make sure I can deliver’, and deliver is what they do.

The other side of it is that the avatar will tend to be a version of their alter-ego. This will help you manage then as well as being a discussion starter that can help build and bond the team.