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What to put on a kanban card

Burk Hufnagel
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Marcus,
The sample chapter of the book has people writing down a description of the task they're working on, but if you Google 'kanban card', there are lots of images of cards with way more information and details than that. How does a team decide what to put on a card (I even saw a suggestion for a two-card version) and what to leave off? I suspect that each team will need to figure out the answer for themselves, but I also suspect that there are some things that most teams find useful and others that sound good but don't really add value and I would appreciate learning from your experience.

Thanks,
Burk


SCJP, SCJD, SCEA 5 "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!" Agatha Heterodyne (Girl Genius)
Marcus Hammarberg
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Hi Burk,

Awesome question. In fact - we have devoted an entire chapter to the work item and the card (CH4 Work items).

You can put whatever you want on the card but let the guiding principle be that it should facilitate decision making around the work item. The card should also help team members to optimize the outcome of the work item (be it economical, risk or lead time).

That said, this is things that I have seen come up often:
- A description that help you understand what the item is all about. No really - this is so often missed and abused. Make it clear to everyone.
- Avatars that shows who is working on the item right now
- Deadlines - for items that have them
- ID in electronic repositories where you can store additional information when needed
- Markers for blocked items
- The type of work, often indicated by color (red for defects, green for technical stuff etc)
- The size of the work item - is it S, M or L. Or maybe 8 story points. Some indication of the size of the work.

But again, there's no rules for this. Add stuff that helps you and your team know what to do with the work item.

Hope this helps
/Marcus
http://bit.ly/theKanbanBook
Burk Hufnagel
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Marcus,
Thanks!

Reading through the list, I'm thinking that Avatars need to be removable so that as the work moves from stage to stage it's easy to see who's working on it now. Then again, it might be useful if the card had a history of who worked on it... Sigh - I guess it depends on what the team finds more valuable.

I guess the same thing could go for the Blocked marker too. It could be removable, or it might be useful to keep a history of which items were blocked and for how long so the team could see how often such things happen, what stage it happened in (might be a pattern), etc. for analysis.

Wow, I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this. There's no single right answer because it depends on what the team finds valuable to them for this project. Does that make sense?

Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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    5

Burk - you got it!
Your answer brought tears to my eyes.

There's no set answer that fits all.

However there are some starting points that can help you get going (our book lists a lot of those), but remember that it's just a starting point. Change as needed and as you progress.

/Marcus
Burk Hufnagel
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Thanks, I guess I need to get a copy of the book and work my way through it.

Is there an estimate for when the book goes to print?

Ooh that made me think of another question! Are you using a kanban board to track the tasks needed to complete the book?

Thank you for helping me learn,
Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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    5

Hi,

were hoping that the book will be live in November. But you can get the complete book as a MEAP (Manning Early Access Program) from the end of this month

We have used a variety of kanban techniques in our work with the book. We've written about some of our failures to do so in the book.
Burk Hufnagel
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Marcus Hammarberg wrote:were hoping that the book will be live in November. But you can get the complete book as a MEAP (Manning Early Access Program) from the end of this month

We have used a variety of kanban techniques in our work with the book. We've written about some of our failures to do so in the book.

From book complete to published and available in a month or so sounds pretty good. I'm hoping to win a copy, but if I don't then I'll probably wind up with a MEAP version. I prefer to read paper bools, but the electronic version is great for searching.

Is there a story about using kanban on the book that you could share with us? I'd put the Bambi-eyes emoticon here, but we don't have one, so please use your imagination.

Thank you,
Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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Well... there's the one where we realized the problems with lot of things going on at the same time. Lots of WIP in other words.

We had about 6 chapters going on at the same time. When the first of those was completed we realized that we wanted another introduction. And in the process had to rewrite the 6 chapters.

If we only have had one or two chapter the damage for such a change would have been considerable smaller.
Burk Hufnagel
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Marcus Hammarberg wrote:Well... there's the one where we realized the problems with lot of things going on at the same time. Lots of WIP in other words.

We had about 6 chapters going on at the same time. When the first of those was completed we realized that we wanted another introduction. And in the process had to rewrite the 6 chapters.

If we only have had one or two chapter the damage for such a change would have been considerable smaller.

Rewrite 6 chapters? Ouch.

I don't understand though why changing the introduction meant rewriting all the other chapters you'd written... That seems odd.

Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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Well, that was not hard to understand given my description.

But we introduced a story in the first chapter and wanted all the other chapters to point back to the story from time to time. That meant, in reality, that we had to rewrite them.
Burk Hufnagel
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I think I get it. The story in the intro changed, so the parts where you referenced the story in later chapters had to be changed too.

What I'm thinking though is that even if you finished the intro before beginning on the chapters, a later decision to change the intro would still mean going to the chapters and updating them. Oh, I see. Instead of rewriting six partial chapters, you'd only have to update three completed chapters. Right?

Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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Yes, keeping them all "in progress" meant that we had a lot of stuff moving around at the same time
Burk Hufnagel
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But couldn't the same thing happen after you'd completed the first draft? If during a review, you decided to change the story then all of the chapters that depend on the story might need to be updated.

I wonder if there's a literary equivalent to loosely coupling classes, and if there'd be a way to make that work for your problem?

Sorry if I'm getting too personal - problem solving seems to be a habit of mine and one of the hazards of being a programmer or architect.

Burk
Marcus Hammarberg
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It would sure be a lot of change either way, but at the time (and always?) it felt that it was a lot of things to keep in our heads at the same time
Burk Hufnagel
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Marcus Hammarberg wrote:but at the time (and always?) it felt that it was a lot of things to keep in our heads at the same time


Right. And that's one of the big benefits of limiting WiP... I see. Good point.

Thanks for that,
Burk
 
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