Organising Agile Teams With A Visual Calendar – by Bruno Sbille

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This is a guest blog post from Bruno Sbille…

“During the latest phase of our project, I had to work with a team of 7 people . But none of them were 100% on the project. To describe the situation we had:

  • Two team members 80% on project
  • Two part-time
  • One expert who was 15 days on the project over a period of 3 months
  • A person 20% on project
  • A person who was involved 5 days on the project, but when he was there … the whole team should be present.

This situation could have turned into a nightmare … how to be sure everyone has the right level of information? How to communicate? How to fix a meeting? If a developer need the webdesigner, how can we sure she will be present?

Well at first I wanted to tell youIi had invented a new tool that combines:

– a very advanced calculation algorithm
– advanced planning techniques
– a module with availability management.

But the truth is far more simple…

Make it V-I-S-UAL

In fact these potential issues were solved fairly quickly because we used very powerful and easy-to-set-up follow-up and communication tool called “Visual Calendar”.

Visual Calendar consists of a large sheet of paper on which you draw a one month calendar on which you stick post-it notes.

Here’s how to set up this tool:

1. During the sprint planning, you build the visual calendar for the current month. A good practice is to match your sprint schedule. Example: imagine that your sprint #2 runs from October 19 to November 13. You also know that the sprint planning sprint #3 will take place on November 15 so you can build your Visual Calendar from October 19 to November 15.

2. On the calendar you identify the days-off, or any non-working day for your customer .

3. Place on the calendar all the dates already negotiated with the product owner or customer, e.g. demo, sprint review, sprint planning, go live …

4. You identify each member (Team Member, Scrum Master and Product Owner) with a color.

5. Each team member specify holidays and availabilities on the calendar. Day “ON”, the person is on the project, and days “OFF”, the person is not available on the project.

Then you play with the concepts of days ON and OFF to not overload your schedule and to have maximum visibility.

In our example the full-time staff indicate their days of absence “days off” for the people part – time, they specify their days of prence “days ON.

Example 1: Bob is 80% on the project, he will not be available for 4 days in the sprint, he sticks 4 post-its of his color on the calendar with the words “Bob Off” for the days he is not present on the project.

Example2: Gerard will be 2 days on the project, place 2 post-its of color with the words “Gerard ON” on the calendar.

6. Every “key” event is added during sprint presence of the product owner, meetings, travel outside, unavailabilities etc..

To raise awareness of the team to the importance we give to this tool, each month a different team member builds it (completion time between 5 and 15 minutes). It is also an opportunity for everyone to show some creativity.

Reader: “Okay, okay Bruno you seems to be a nice guy but… you tell us to make it visual and you only use text to explain your concept…strange isn’it ?”

Bruno: “What can i say…you’re totally right ! Here’s the Visual Calendar with a Visual explanation (Click to enlarge) ”

This is it!

Agile Development Visual Calendar

With this tool you can immediately answer questions like:

Team Member: “Is Gerard present today ? I need him to complete my module!”

Product Owner: “I will validate some user stories, what is the best day for me to come this week?”

Team Member: “When can we organize our meeting with the client and our technical expert?”

Team member: “When is the product owner coming?”

X: “When is the demo ? I have not received the invitation?”

Scrum Master: “Which day is best to offer the team a Belgian beer ?” 

and cherry on the cake … it works even in cases of network failure, viruses or other computer problems!

As always, i suggest you to update your tool according to your team’s feedback (see gallery below)!

As always, I am not asking you to believe me … Just give it a try! Go test this tool, customize it your way, invent your own rules … and give me feedback on your experience



Iteration 1
Iteration 2 – more visual
Iteration 3 – we add colours!
An event
Use colours