Todo – doing – done is not “Starting with what you do now”

A couple of weeks ago I had this discussion about the Kanban principle “Start with what you do now” and whether or not that is the same as the “todo – doing – done”-value stream we know from personal Kanban.

Thinking that the two are the same is actually a very common misunderstanding.
”Start with what you do” now has nothing to do with “todo – doing – done” and actually predates personal Kanban by a couple of years. Todo-doing-done is a simplified concept that Jim Benson introduced to use the Kanban Method on a personal level. In Kanban terminology those boards are referred to as “proto kanban” – systems that might evolve into kanban systems.

“Start with what you do now” refers to the big difference in the approach. While in approaches like XP, FDD, DSDM or Scrum, you implement a whole new process, the Kanban Method’s approach is to model what you do now. In the Kanban system.

By simply stating todo-doing-done one does not yet model the way the actual team works.
Since the general workflow “todo – doing – done” is always true, there is not yet the connection to the way your team has agreed to work and no way to discuss specific process policies.

Facilitating the evolution of this very general approach to a system that captures how your team wants to work, and building the peer-accountability that is necessary, is one of the challenges for everyone guiding or coaching evolutionary improvement processes.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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