Two kanban boards

Here is an idea that makes Kanban boards more satisfying, more flexible, and easier to assign value.

The idea is that:

1) we often need two Kanban boards per team: one for user stories and one for tasks.
2) task boards can be a generic To-Do/Doing/Done but user story boards often have a defined lifecycle.

The issue is the granularity of what we track: big stories or little tasks, or both.

I've seen boards track user stories, with a completion checklist ("acceptance" or "definition of done") on each story. The problem is that they take forever to move. Daily standups are boring and demoralising.

Whereas if the board tracks tasks, we don't have the context, the big picture.

And if the board tries to track both it's just confusing.

If we separate stories and tasks out into separate boards, we get one board with the big picture and one with daily work flowing. The tasks need to be linked to the associated story (if there is one). Of course software does that linking for us, for those who go digital*.

Tasks can be all sorts of things

  • steps in a user story
  • housekeeping
  • defects
  • etc

They are best handled generically with some variation on the old To-Do/Doing/Done columns.

On the other hand, the bigger user stories tend to be of specific types, depending on the work the team does. For example, a development team's stories will be something to be developed in software whereas an audit team's stories will be audits to be performed and a security team's stories will be security reviews. Teams may also have "miscellaneous" stories, or work on several types of story, but lots of teams will have stories of one type. And that type will have a defined lifecycle with known stages.

So the development team's user story board might have columns of, say, "to do, write tests, coding, integrate, accept, deploy, done" and an audit team's user story board might have columns of "ToR, schedule, review, findings, revise, accept, report, actions, done".


  • This isn't the same as an organisational/programme/portfolio Kanban board. The story board is still specific to the same team as the task board below it. We are just splitting the team's work into two levels.
  • We can print user stories out from say JIRA or Service Now, with a template set up to give us the format.
  • The tasks can be handwritten on the classic post-it note.
    (Pro tip: 3M make a SuperSticky PostIT. Buy only those.
    Pro tip: learn how to peel tags off without them curling. Peel sideways not upwards)

  • The user story board can be smaller: the task board carries all the volume.
  • Here's the real kicker for me: The high level board measures the value of the work. Trying to associate value with incremental tasks is pointless (see The Art Of Business Value).


Has anyone seen this two-board-one-generic-one-specific idea explicitly described?


* If you want to go both physical and digital with your Kanban boards, here is a brilliant solution: synchronisation software. I haven't tried these so feedback is welcomed:

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