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I am the PM of a small team of 6 programmers, recently we are trying to go more agile by including in our workflow some principles or techniques of XP, scrum, scrumban and lean.

A very important tool is our kanban, currently we are using github+zenhub for that. Zenhub provides a simple and customizable kanban(similar to trello) fully integrated into github issues.

Our current setup looks like this. enter image description here

It is some kind of combination of Taskboard Kanban and User story Kanban. But still where the 2,3 column are managed by the PO and PM while the last 3 columns are managed by the team.

The problem is that we have this mixtures of user stories and tasks, and I wonder what’s the typical approach to organize them. Some tasks are part of user stories, while others (non-functional features, chores and refactors) are not. Should they be part of the backlog? How would you improve this kanban?

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Typically you would decompose your User Stories in subtasks Tasks should be used for technical needs, not for decomposition of a user story I don't know zenhub but in trello you could create checklist for US subtasks You could have subtasks for tasks as well What you must feel is that you have a hierarchy of elements and you would maybe need one board for each level, maybe you won't need a board for subtasks. In any case it seems difficult to represent two levels on the same board

  • I was always confused about those two concepts (tasks and user stories). Today zenhub release epics theme issues (This is one level hierarchy, which perfectly fits the dependency between task-subtasks and US-subtasks). Following your post I added tasks and US to the Product backlog and Sprint Backlog pipeline, and left ToDo/On Progress for pipeline for subtasks – Vicente Adolfo Bolea Sánchez Apr 5 '16 at 7:01
  • Another thing is that we need to have a pipeline (kanban) for subtasks, the reason is that as we are not physically at the same place all the time, so it is important to know who is doing what. Zenhub does not provide multiple boards so I came up with this work-around to deal with that. – Vicente Adolfo Bolea Sánchez Apr 5 '16 at 7:10
  • I am asking myself why the location of the teammates implies a board for subtasks. – Julien Plée Apr 5 '16 at 11:18
  • Maybe you are facing a size problem for your US and Tasks – Julien Plée Apr 5 '16 at 11:18
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    I see the problem. For me yes, you shouldn't have a workflow under the stories in most of the cases. Maybe the solution to your problem is in a communication tool like slack or hipchat. It will give a board for US and tasks, and a communication sync with a chatroom tool. Hope it can connect with zenhub. And hope it helps too – Julien Plée Apr 5 '16 at 17:07
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I'd start by moving to a physical task board. Tools can be great force multipliers. However if you start in a tool, you will often get influenced by the tool and end up doing process by tool. This is happening to my teams at AOL now and I've got teams experimenting with physical task boards for day to day and Jira just to document the work for official records.

Figure out what works well for you, with a physical board, then figure out how to make the tool work.

  • Thats a good approach, unfortunately even though we have an office, this is a part time project and sometime is hard to find everyone at the office (team members has other duties and frequently travel). So, we highly rely on online tools. – Vicente Adolfo Bolea Sánchez Apr 5 '16 at 7:04
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If you mix stories with tasks my guess would be that you will have a hard time getting reasonable metrics out of your board.

One of the key things when doing Kanban is measuring cycle time and making sure it meets your requirements. You should also think about types (classes of work) that you measure cycle time for.

I would recommend having horizontal swim-lanes for different classes of work (bugs, features, technical debt) and only user stories. That is how you would be able to tell that on average, stories with size X take Y days to complete.

My 2 cents.

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I would put the two on separate kanban boards but try to keep the linkages between the cards intact. That will fix a lot of the problems and the confusion.

Do encourage everybody to regularly look at both boards so you don't lose that integration.

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