Tuesday, December 18, 2012

5 Ideas what to to with your done tickets

When I talk about Kanban, I sometimes get asked: „What shall we do with all the tickets after they are done?“ Two years ago my answer was: „If the task is really done, just throw the ticket away.“ But during the past couple of months I’ve learned that there are many useful things you can do with the done tickets. Here are my top 5.
Note: I’ve faked all the pictures shown in this article, but I’ve seen all of the described scenarios in real life.

1: The leaf approach

Leave all tickets in the done column until they fall off the wall – like leaves fall off the trees in fall (this, of course, only works if you use sticky notes, otherwise you might be waiting for a long time:-) The adventage is that it has a motivating effect, because it shows to the team and everyone passing by how much the team gets done.

2: Separate by weekdays

How much do you get done on which weekday? Are there paterns? If these questions are interesting for you, you can simply divide the done column into five swim lanes – one for every day of the week. At the end of the week (or the beginning of the new week) you hold a quick retrospective: How are the done tickets distributed amongst the weekdays? Why is that? Meetings? Incidents? And do we see patterns regarding which type of work is usually finished on what day of the week? After you have talked about this, take a picture and then throw the tickets away (or use them in any other way you find useful).
Note: I think I‘ve read about this technique in a blog post before I suggested it to one of my clients who now applies it. If you know the original reference, please let me know.

Update: Now I found out that it was this post by Jesco von Voss I saw this technique before.

3: Use them for generating your charts

If you’ve ever played GetKanban, you know that updating charts is not as much effort as we might think. Often it only means plotting one data point for every ticket you get done. So what if we wouldn‘t plot points but use our done tickets as dots instead? This ist not only more fun, but it also provides us with additional information, because we still have all the information written on the ticket available. Use this charts for your daily work, for feedback meetings, for forecasting and for discussing with your stakeholders.
Here’s an example of a Time Distribution Chart (aka Spectral Analysis Chart). 

Of course a Run Chart (mostly named „Cotrol Chart“ although we don’t use control limits) is also possible and not much effort, either.
And here’s a suggestion for a Burn Up Chart built with sticky notes. I’m also thinking about using Cumulative Flow Diagrams this way. I think it would look really cool. The only disadvantage would be that you have to clone tickets avery day (because you don’t take tickets from „testing“, „developing“ etc. off the wall before they are done).

4: Make improvement opportunities visible

Imagine you are working in a big company. Your team is supposed to build features, but in fact you are doing bug fixes and enhancements for other teams most of the time. You feel that this is a problem, but it’s mostly a gut feel. So why not collect the done tickets for a longer period of time, so that you will see how the mix of Features, Bug Fixes and Enhancements is? This picture might be an eye opener for your team and your stakeholders:

After you have visualized that, you can go even one step further. Another problem is that your team has interdependencies with other teams. This leads to the situation where you get your tickets done, but after that they will not be deployed for weeks or even months because of these dependencies and the complicated deployment process. You have talked about with other teams and your boss but they seem not really to understand how bad this situation really is. So you change your done column into a time line with the next planned release as the end date. Now you get a really good picture how much costs (cost of delay) your company generates, bacause valuable features have to wait for weeks before the will be deployed. And this picture shows another truth: Of course you could work on becoming more efficient in your team. But this is probably only a tempest in the teapot. The real big leaver here is to reduce the wait time before deployment! And why does the mix of features change over time? Why do we have so many pink tickets just before the release?
Click to enlarge

5: Box them

When I visited one if my clients for the first time, I saw they had a box next to their board in which they collected all the done tickets. I asked: „What do you do with all the tickets?“ The answer was one of the coolest things I‘ve ever heard. „We ship them to our competitor.“ Until today I’m not sure if they were kidding or not.


  • There are many ways to use your done tickets. Which technique is appropriate for you? There is only one way to find out: Try. If it does not provide you with any value, try something different! What I‘ve learned is that done tickets can be used for better understanding your team‘s/organization‘s demand as well as its capability. You can use them as a learning tool, and it can be a great tool for showing improvement opportunities. And last but not least: It should be motivating. 

One disadvantage of some of the techniques I‘ve described in this post is that they require a lot of space. So it might not be possible to simply copy them. But I‘m sure you will find a way to emerge new techniques that fit your context.
Do you find this useful? Do you have any other examples what to do with done tickets? Please share them!

P.S. Mike Cohn has just tweeted another possibility for using your done tickets: decorate your Christmas tree ;-) 


  1. Regarding version 2: I wrote about the layout by weekdays in http://minds.coremedia.com/2012/09/11/a-world-without-burndowns-the-unified-taskboard/
    Cheers, Jesco

    1. Jesco,

      Thanks for the hint! I updated the post and mentioned your post as the source.