Evolving Scrum with Kanban – Where do my Tasks go?

At the beginning of the year, I introduced Kanban to two Scrum teams I worked with as a ScrumMaster and one problem I faced was how to integrate tasks into the Kanban board. Practicing Scrum for more than one year, the teams were used to tasks and refused to drop them, because they saw tasks as very helpful in order to see there progress and synchronize their work. I agreed with the team and didn’t want to change to much in order to avoid resistance as much as possible, but at the time it seemed there was no room for tasks and stories on a Kanban Board. Of course we found a first solution and started to advance from there, but somehow I wasn’t able to write it down, until yesterday.

That’s because I received an email from a friend, an Agile Coach, asking me for advice on how to tackle pretty much the same problems I had when starting to use Kanban with the Scrum teams. Needless to say I answered his questions and I guessed there are probably more people out there having trouble with integrating tasks into their Kanban System. So I decided to finally revive my blog and share my experiences in switching from Scrum to Kanban and hopefully help others with it and maybe get some more ideas and feedback. Here is my solution to how to integrate tasks known from Scrum into a Kanban board.

The problem with visualizing the tasks, the team insisted to keep, was pretty simple to sort out. Practically inclined I decided to shrink the Scrum board and integrate it into the Kanban Board that way we ended up having three smaller columns named “To Do”, “in Progress”, “Done” between the columns “Story is being developed” and “Development of story is done”. These three small columns include only tasks, which belong to a story hanging in the “Story is being developed” column. For the time the story is developed only its tasks move over the board or to be more precise they move in the three Scrum board-like columns. By the way writing the tasks is actually defined in the Definition of Done(DoD) of the “Story is being planned” column.

Here is an old picture of one of the boards. The columns names were different, but you can see easily identify the tasks columns in the middle under the title in progress.Kanban board with integrated task columns

Like I said the solution was pretty simple, but only works having a board that is big enough, but what if your board is too small? The Kanban board would look really messy and would be no fun to work with resulting in nobody using it. The following two ideas try to tackle that situation. I didn’t try them yet, so don’t nail me down on them, if they aren’t working in the wild. ;-)

First idea, use envelopes with the story or feature name written on it and put the tasks into the envelope. When the team starts working on the story, team members can take the tasks out and put it on their Personal Kanban board. All at once or one after another until the story is done. Though the missing visualizing of the workload and the perhaps messy and bugging searching for tasks in the envelope could be something that speaks against it.  If these are two points you don’t want to miss than maybe the second idea actually the one I would prefer works better for you. Just put up an extra team board for the tasks. The Kanban board would show the stories the team is working on and the team board would contain the tasks the team is working on in order to complete the story on Kanban board.  This gives the team a place to put their tasks and the visualisation of their progress.

I started to write this post including a second problem I had, but I decided to write a new one about that in order to keep the post clean by concentrating on one specific topic. Which means, if you enjoyed this post you can look forward to a second “Evolving Scrum with Kanban” post telling you about my at the time following question “Measure what?”.

I would appreciate it, if you would write me a comment sharing your experiences or opinion on my ideas. Thank you


6 thoughts on “Evolving Scrum with Kanban – Where do my Tasks go?

  1. Hi Matthias,

    yes that’s a nice solution I really like it and read about it before, but obviously forgot it. Thank you for adding it and thanks for you comment.

    Glad you like it.

  2. Hi Wolfgang,
    thanks for sharing your ideas. I like the Kanban+3 approach. I’ll share that with my team and of course keep you updated.

    Keep on posting!

  3. This article was immensely helpful to defining our new Kanban process within a startup of 10.

    We too were having problems with the tasks work type “disappearing” from many Kanban board implementations…

    Thanks Wolfgang :)

  4. 1. Envelope solution could be a transparent ziplock bag instead so that it is possible to easily visualize work still needing to be done and the work already completed.

    Question: where is the follow-up article on ‘Measure What?’

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