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Recently I came across following issue. In an electronic (or physical) Kanban board it’s possible to assign a given work item to specific person. Many work/task tracking tools support that (and it’s not specific for Kanban only).

What I wonder about is the possibility to have multiple people working on same item at the same time. In some cases – the work item can be decomposed into several smaller sub-items. I’m not talking about these. What I have in mind is work on which multiple people work together at same time to produce a single output (e.g. pair programming; or doing some discovery/analysis on one and the same topic – and different people contribute with their findings).

What’s the purpose of tracking who’s working on what

I want to focus on an environment which should stimulates self organization and pull style of work. So the purpose is not to punish/prize the responsible person if he doesn’t meet or exceeds some expectations. (I also consider the team could be non-collocated – so the electronic board is something they rely on for coordinating their work).

So here are some options:

  • Visualizing responsible per work item may help people coordinating their work. E.g. avoiding having tasks in “in progress” state which however are not being worked on.
    Having two responsible ones – may lead to situations where each thinks that the other guy is taking care of that work.
  • Tracking and limiting the number of tasks each person is working on at given moment. (I.e. per person WIP).
    This may be valuable in order to avoid hidden excessive multi-tasking.

Some options for tracking collaborators

  1. Each task must have one and only one responsible person (to avoid the above-mentioned situation: nobody working on the task).
    In our pairing scenario – we can somehow select just one of the pairing team-mates to be primary responsible

    1. and either track the other collaborators as secondary ones;
    2. or not track them at all
  2. To stimulate whole-team approach it could be considered best not to track who’s assigned to specific task at all.
    Since it’s a whole team responsibility. If we assign specific person – the others may tread that task as “foreign” one (especially for teams new to the whole team approach idea).
  3. And what remains is – tracking all collaborators per work item as equals without having a dedicated primary one. (Variation of this is – ability to define team/sub-team working on single task).

Since some tools don’t support assigning multiple people per work item. So in case we want 1.A or 3 – a possibility is to create artificial sub-tasks per collaborator. (I would say – that’s a bit weird decomposition of work and is likely to lead to confusion).

And if we want to follow 2 – then if tools allows work assignment, this may lead to confusion.


Presently we’re working like describe din 1.B and the collaboration on single work item is just not tracked in the electronic tool.

I’m still not sure what would be the best way to handle such scenarios. Any comments and suggestions are welcome.