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Is this the End of the Line for Physical Task Boards?

The End of the Physical Task Board

Anthony Mersino

March 30, 2020

11:56 AM

As the COVID-19 pandemic grows worldwide and in particular in the US, I can’t help but wonder if our ability to meet face to face will become a thing of the past. And with it will go the physical task board.

Physical Task Boards Rocked!

I’ve been a huge champion of physical task boards since Tom Cagley and I created some very crude ones for use at a client in 2011. The boards we created were not at all pretty, but they were functional and the client teams loved them. They loved seeing all the work of the team in one place, and more importantly, being able to see progress (or lack of it) from day to day.


There is something about the tactile nature of physical task boards that is engaging. Those of you who have used physical task boards are probably aware of the feelings evoked when moving a sticky from one column to the next. And especially if the sticky had been stuck in “In Progress” for a while and then it got moved to “Done”! Teams usually saved those big moves until the daily standup to allow for a little drama. Some teams actually clapped and high-fived each other at these moments as they shared in the feeling of accomplishment.

Vinyl Albums also Rocked!

It kinda reminds me of another lost technology, that of the album. When I was 16 or so I signed up for the Columbia record of the month club and got 12 albums for a penny. That jumpstarted my album collection and eventually, I had hundreds of albums. That was before I upgraded (?) to CDs and eventually Apple Music. I sure wish I had some of these albums back:


Listening to music then was an entirely different experience. There was something wonderful about putting an album on a turntable, cleaning it, moving the needle over, and letting that first side play before flipping it over to play the other. We always listened to the entire album, like a ritual. It was something you enjoyed, savored even. We had rooms that were optimized to feature the sound and I did most of my undergraduate studying listening to Pink Floyds “The Wall”. Most of the math I took was learned listening to old Genesis (circa Peter Gabriel) including “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”.

Perhaps I am just an old guy being nostalgic – thank you for humoring me. Yes, we will progress forward and yes we are all going to be OK. We just won’t meet in person anymore, at least not anytime soon. Physical task boards will become a rarity, a thing of the past.

Jira Works the Same Way

Hey don’t worry, Jira has a task board that works the same way” you say?

Nope, not even close.

Physical task boards are information radiators. Jira and other online tools are information refrigerators which fall short. Solutions IQ describes an information radiator well:

  • It’s highly visible
  • You don’t have to go find it, it’s just always there waiting for someone to look at it
  • It is kept up to date – it’s simple enough that the team actually uses it and updates it and it reflects what the team is working on
  • It can alert a team to a situation that needs corrective action – it doesn’t tell you what to do, it just displays the facts, we have to do the rest
  • It’s simple

Oh yeah, Jira does all that. Our Scrum Master is responsible for keeping our Jira task board up to date.


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