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I have been lately confronted to an argument with my top level hierarchy in the deployment of a Kanban process.

As my arguments was to do columns like " Todo, In prog, done, so on ... "

I have also added lines for tasks assignement per person was a good way to track the activity and identify issues throught the project's timeline. Like a corridor for each people in the team in the Kanban board.

But my project manager says that it was more like a " bad tracking" in order to stigmatize people and point the finger to them if tasks doesn't move. If you don't explicitly assign a task to someone, you see it as a big picture and the whole team should move together to assure continuous delivery.

As I'm whole new in this, can you tell me, please, what is the point of explicitly assign a task to someone in a Kanban board ? And what are the advantages and the cons to not do so ?

Thanks you.

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    Kanban is a tool to understand flow, so most likely the relationship between items and individuals is not really the point. Certainly if someone is weaponizing the tool, something needs to change. – yitznewton Aug 8 '17 at 15:33
  • I guess this is where i'm confused. I was likely thinking that this relationship between items and people should be explicit on a kanban board in order to understand flow and reveal blocking points. – Qserv Aug 8 '17 at 18:15
  • If a given person is single-handedly responsible for one of the columns, then it might make sense; but generally we assume that a group of people is collectively responsible for one or more columns. Maybe if you tell a story about items, people, and blocking points, we'll understand what you are picturing – yitznewton Aug 8 '17 at 19:13
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So I don't think your question has anything to do with Kanban in particular. The purpose of assigning tasks to developers, as it is common is prescriptive approaches where the Project Manager does this, or developers selecting their tasks on their own, as it is common in agile approaches, is to simply know who is working on what for collaboration and progress calculation purposes.

But my project manager says that it was more like a " bad tracking" in order to stigmatize people...

I think your project manager might have meant that agile approaches encourage empowered and self-organized teams where the whole team is responsible for results, not just individuals. I actually agree that doing this may make the developer uncomfortable and negatively affect team synergies.

Having said that, your whole setup seems confusing. If you guys are moving to agile, why do you have project managers? Even more weird, why do you have "project managers" instructing you if you are the flow master (or service delivery manager or whatever you call the equivalent of Scrum Master in Kanban) in your Kanban team?

  • Thanks for that answer ! I think now I do understand the reason of empowering self-organized teams. To your related questions, the team has been used to work with a " firefighter " process that wasn't agile at all. As confusing it seems to be, this application has been not done yet, so we're trying to understand how to deploy this agilty with a kanban tool with developers and managers. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't find that shocking to have project manager inside an agile configuration. It is still a project to be managed – Qserv Aug 8 '17 at 18:29
  • Sure but I assumed you are the project manager? Anyway, you should definitely checkout Scrum. The best framework, IMO, to start with when starting with agile. – Muhammad Aug 8 '17 at 18:32
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    @Muhammed A couple of things I'd like to mention: the best framework is the one that fits the team and the project(s), not a specific one. It depends on the maturity of the team and the setup of the company if it will work. It's also a massive change for some teams. The team I recently took over I started on Kanban because we had a lot of other improvements to make internally and to push Scrum at the same time would have been a massive info and change overload. I moved them over bit by bit over 3-4 months. It really depends which is "the best" framework – dKen Aug 10 '17 at 3:22
  • @dKen, I agree with you and I have used Kanban with smaller teams (1-2 developers) where we literally had no idea what the requirements were and neither did the client. Having said that, I generally find Scrum the easiest to get people introduce to Agile. The framework includes sufficient roles, events and rules to build that muscle memory. – Muhammad Aug 10 '17 at 8:44

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