Using graffiti to build high-performing teams.

Using graffiti to build high-performing teams.


There’s one thing that strikes me about close-knit, high-performing teams. They seem to have an internal language that people outside of the group have trouble understanding. So how can the use of grafitti encourage the development of this internal language?

Well-known author Steve McConnell wrote about this in his book Rapid Development:Taming Wild Software Schedules.

Like a lot of other teams, we had a set of in-jokes and rituals that people outside the team had a hard time understanding.

I’ve written previously about the importance of a shared common language. The language I’m referring to here is different.  It’s not so much about the language used to communicate about the project domain,  but more about language the team used internally for in-jokes and the like. I’m going to share with you a technique I’ve used for creating and enhancing this internal language – the Graffiti Wall.

 

The Grafitti Board

The Grafitti Wall is a white board (or a cordoned-off section of a whiteboard) placed centrally within the team’s working area. The team uses this board to visually create their own space.

 

What goes on the board?

Things which appear on the board are generally related to the company, project, team or individual team members. Typically these will be things that are funny, stupid, annoying or just plain quirky.

With one team we used to record any funny sayings that were mentioned during meetings. One person often talked about “Having all their ducks lined up”, so that saying went went up on the Graffiti Wall. One day in a meeting someone said that “Ideas are like concrete” which no-one, including the person who said it, knew what it meant. So that went up on the wall.  You probably get the idea by now.

I’ve also seen teams write inspirational quotes or draw caricatures. Other teams have posted a question and then have other team members write or draw replies to that question.

Let your imagination run free because there’s no limit to how creative you can get with these Graffiti Walls.

Some usage guidelines

Here are some guidelines that I’ve found helpful for running Graffiti Walls:

  • Nothing discriminatory goes on the wall – nothing sexist, racist etc.
  • Everything on the wall must comply with organisational rules and policies.
  • Any team member can write on the wall.
  • A team member can remove anything from the wall that has been written about them.

Have Fun

Have fun with your Graffiti Wall and please let me know how your teams use it.

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