Information Refrigerator?

Hopefully you recognize that this is a play on the term information radiator, but let me explain how/why?

I find that when starting with a new client and discussing the idea that we are going to put all their tasks and activities on a wall for everyone to see and so that it’s easy for the team to update, there is almost always push back or at least hesitation. The concerns typically are centered around the fact that “well we already have a dashboard system we use here to track project status and Sr Management uses it”. My guess is they have never seen a good story board/task board wall.

So where does the refrigerator part come into this?

Well, recently my refrigerator went on the fritz and stopped working, but I didn’t know it. I noticed that items coming out of the fridge seemed to be less cold, but I figured it was just me. So I didn’t do anything. Many hours later, the problem seemed to be worsening. Lo and behold, we had a problem and ended up losing a bunch of food in the refrigerator.  We had it repaired and all was fine, until it broke again.  This time the “breakage” was more obvious, but only because I was standing in the adjacent room (there was an electrical popping sound and a puff of smoke that came out from under the unit).  If I hadn’t been in the next room, again I wouldn’t have known something was wrong.

In the end, my wife and I decided to buy a new refrigerator instead of repairing the original.  The unit we purchased was half the price of the original unit (which was only 7 years old) but has more features and fit our needs better.  We purchased based on price, look and features, in that order.  It has a feature that I really didn’t notice/appreciate until it was in my kitchen and plugged in.  A digital display that shows the temperature of the freezer and of the refrigerator.  That’s the information radiator.  It even has an alarm built in alert us if the temp rises too high.  I could have a manual thermometer in the fridge and in the freezer to tell me the same information, but the difference is, I have to go look for it.  I would have to open the fridge, find where the thermometer got moved to and read it, just like a traditional dashboard.

With my new information refrigerator every time I am in the kitchen I know if things are working as expected simply by looking.  No digging for thermometers (or dashboards located on the web or in some program management tool somewhere).  So now if one of my kids leaves the door open or if it breaks (it better not, it’s brand new), I have a much better chance of knowing and being able to take a corrective action.

So what makes a good information radiator?

  • 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

I love the information radiator part of my new fridge so much, I’m not sure I would ever want one without it.  Just like I would never want to run a project without an information radiator.  Once you see it and experience the simple power of it, you’ll know what I mean.

If you are a virtual team you have additional complexity to deal with.  BigVisible has built a virtual task board (information radiator) that is free for anyone to use, check it out at