Code And Cocktails

Quickie: Less Columns on Your Board

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So you have a “Agile Board”(TM) congratulations! If you are like any of the people I’ve worked with recently you’ve got lots of columns to keep track of all the possible states a story card could be in.

Back away from the board…

You should start with very few columns. I think four should be plenty:

  • Backlog
  • Current
  • Doing
  • Done

Backlog is the place to keep all your new ideas. Make sure the next priorities are at the top and ready to go, as you go down the list don’t worry about the rest too much, they can stay vague.

Current is for the things you are planning on doing this iteration. Use the Goldilocks principle. Don’t agree to do too much or too little. Just the Right(TM) amount.

Doing is for things that are being worked on RIGHT NOW. A good number of items here is a function of the number of people on your team and how they collaborate (pairing, mobbing, solo if you must). If there are too few or too many items there is a problem - discuss it. If something stays here for days that is the sign of a problem - discuss it.

Done is for keeping track of the valuable things you are delivering as a team. Rejoice. Throw them away after sufficient rejoicing (sometime after the next iteration starts is a good time).

What about Ready for QA? or Ready for Deploy? you ask. I’d ask why isn’t QA and/or Deploy part of your definition of done?

What about Blocked. OK this one might be useful. But a red sticky (or equivalent for non-physical boards) on the card is probably enough. Moving it to another column makes it less visible, and a card being blocked is a problem and we want problems to be visible.

Of course it is your process not mine. Use the columns you need. But know why you need them, and feel free to add and remove them if after discussion you realize the board is not serving you anymore.