Definition

"Information radiator" is the generic term for any of a number of handwritten, drawn, printed or electronic displays which 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 an 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 which equates the movement of information with the dispersion of heat and gas

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