Agile Glossary

Information Radiators

What is Information Radiators?

“Information radiator” is the generic term for any of a number of handwritten, drawn, printed, or electronic displays that a team places in a highly visible location, so that all team members, as well as passers-by, can see the latest information at a glance: count of automated tests, velocity, incident reports, continuous integration status, and so on.

Also Known As

  • a related term, nearly synonymous, is “Big Visible Chart”
  • more generally, one speaks of “informative workspaces

Expected Benefits

Intensive use of information radiators conveys two messages in addition to the information itself:

  • the team has nothing to hide from its visitors (customers, stakeholders…)
  • the team has nothing to hide from itself: it acknowledges and confronts problems

The main benefit of the practice is therefore to promote responsibility among the team members. A secondary benefit is that information radiators tend to provoke conversation when outsiders visit, which can yield useful ideas.

Origins

  • 1980s: the notion of “visual control” originating in the Toyota Production System is in anticipation of “information radiators”
  • 1999: the term “Big Visible Chart” is coined by Kent Beck in “Extreme Programming Explained”, though later attributed by Beck to Martin Fowler
  • 2001: the term “information radiator” is coined by Alistair Cockburn, part of an extended metaphor that equates the movement of information with the dispersion of heat and gas
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Additional Agile Glossary Terms

An acceptance test is a formal description of the behavior of a software product, generally expressed as an example or a usage scenario. A number of different notations and approaches have been proposed for such examples or scenarios.
Test-driven development (TDD) is a style of programming where coding, testing, and design are tightly interwoven. Benefits include reduction in defect rates.
The team meets regularly to reflect on the most significant events that occurred since the previous such meeting, and identify opportunities for improvement.
A product backlog is a list of the new features, changes to existing features, bug fixes, infrastructure changes or other activities that a team may deliver in order to achieve a specific outcome.
An acceptance test is a formal description of the behavior of a software product, generally expressed as an example or a usage scenario. A number of different notations and approaches have been proposed for such examples or scenarios.
Test-driven development (TDD) is a style of programming where coding, testing, and design are tightly interwoven. Benefits include reduction in defect rates.
The team meets regularly to reflect on the most significant events that occurred since the previous such meeting, and identify opportunities for improvement.

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