I continue to benefit from the use of my Agile kanban board, if nothing else to keep my supposedly most important tasks in front of me (or behind me as it were, per layout of the office). I have faith and confidence that using this method persistently and diligently, I can build better working habits. Many questions still remain as to how to visualize the work, progress of work and problems with the work more effectively. One very simple question arose from a suggestion one of the readers had to add a “Done” column: do we really need a “done” column?
The Agile kanban board I use has no “done” column. When a task is complete, the tile is erased and recycled (attached to a blank area under the kanban board work area). This tile is then available to be assigned another task value. It could be a major task or something small. In a sense the tiles are like currency or a token, in the same way that the printing of traditional kanban cards in manufacturing are tightly controlled, much like money.
When something is done, presumably some value is created or realized downstream. From the point of view of the task board, the important thing is that capacity has been freed to add another task. The question of capacity is only loosely understood at this point, since there may be a lot of lost or hidden capacity inherent in my way of working. Hopefully the use of the Agile kanban board will ferret all of this out.
I consulted an old friend about the “done” column as it turns out that though our careers diverge, we share a timely interests in the Agile kanban board. David Moles is currently the Agile project lead at his software development company in Switzerland. The photo above is the Agile kanban he uses at his company. Here is David’s take on the “done” column:
The “done” column is an interesting question. I hadn’t really considered it till now, but I think you’re right to turn the question around. Why (five times?) do we have a “done” column?
In a Scrum process (and that’s still basically what we’re doing here, though borrowing ideas from the Agile Kanban guys as I assimilate them) you work in “sprints” of say three weeks. For each sprint you set a sprint goal (deliver features x, y, and z) and break it down into tasks. At the end of the sprint you deliver the completed work to the (possibly internal) customer, the “done” tasks come off the board, and you start again. So I suspect “done” really means something like “ready for delivery.”
David Anderson’s team doesn’t use sprints — they prioritize the “to do” tasks every Monday and, if I understand / remember correctly, they just deliver each feature as it’s completed. There’s an “In Production” column on the taskboards pictured in his slide deck but it seems as though it’s mostly empty, and I’m not sure what it’s for.
There’s a psychological benefit to having a pile of cards on the right-hand side of the board — “look at all the work we’re getting done!” But after reading your blog for a couple of years, I’m suspicious of this. Isn’t a pile-up of cards in the final stage still a pile-up of cards, and an indication of some kind of bottleneck? “Ready for delivery” is a lot like “in inventory”, isn’t it? And we all know that a full warehouse shouldn’t make you feel comfortable, rather the reverse.
I suspect that an ideal system a “done” column shouldn’t be necessary — done = delivered to the customer = off the board.
Oh, and the skull is “dead”, meaning “for some reason we decided not to do this after all.” Like the “done” column, it may or may not be necessary and is probably of mostly psychological value.
Having a “done” column makes sense if there is a downstream team that is actively pulling tasks off of that column to begin their work. In that sense it would be much like a supermarket area in manufacturing terms. Having a stockpile of finished work to feel good about… it’s human nature but not too lean.
David Moles is also a published science fiction author and a witty blogger. Check him out at Chrononaut.