Rotate your device for best experience from site.

Kanban vs Scrum

by Simon Buehring
Learn how Kanban and Scrum can uniquely boost your team's efficiency and deliver value faster in this exploration of both method.
Kanban vs Scrum |

Understanding Kanban and Scrum

Kanban and Scrum are important frameworks within Agile communities, offering distinct approaches to managing work and team productivity. Professionals seeking efficiency turn to these methods to streamline processes, ensure adaptability, and cultivate a collaborative team ethos. While both methods share the common goal of improving workflow and output, they differ significantly in their application and structure.

Kanban is renowned for its simplicity and visual nature, providing teams with a transparent view of task progression through a Kanban board. This method promotes a continuous flow of work, where tasks move from ‘To Do’ to ‘Done’, ensuring a steady pace without overloading the team members.

On the other hand, Scrum offers a more structured approach to product development, dividing work into time-boxed iterations known as Sprints. Each Sprint involves planning, execution, review, and retrospectives, facilitating a rhythm of continuous improvement and regular Product Increments.

Adopting either Scrum or Kanban requires an assessment of a team’s specific needs and the type of projects they undertake. The choice between the two is important in shaping the working dynamics and ultimately the success of project deliverables. By understanding the core of each method, teams can make an informed decision on which one best aligns with their operations, culture, and goals.

The roots of Kanban

Kanban, with its genesis in the Japanese manufacturing industry, has moulded the modern landscape of team efficiency. Originally designed to manage inventory and ensure just-in-time production, it has since evolved. Today, Kanban pervades various sectors, offering a visual system to manage workflow and optimise processes in dynamic environments such as software development.

Scrum fundamentals

Scrum, a structured yet flexible framework, is pivotal to managing complex software projects. Its iterative approach defined roles such as Scrum Master and Product Owner, and time-boxed events known as Sprints, form a cohesive structure.

This structure aims to propel teams toward incremental improvements and deliverables, keeping focus sharp and productivity on a steadily ascending trajectory.

Key characteristics of Kanban

Kanban, a term that translates to ‘visual signal’, streamlines the flow of work by visualising tasks on a board. This visual system displays both the process workflow and the tasks moving through it. By doing this, Kanban simplifies the complex nature of work management and makes it easily accessible for all team members.

Understanding Kanban begins with its most recognisable feature: the Kanban board. This board is typically segmented into columns that represent different stages of the work process, from ‘To Do’ to ‘Doing’ to ‘Done.’

Each task or work item is represented by a card that moves across the board, reflecting its journey through the stages of the workflow. The visibility of the board ensures that all team members have a clear picture of the current workload and progress, fostering stronger communication and accountability.

A key advantage of a Kanban system is its emphasis on limiting work in progress. By setting a maximum number of tasks allowed in each workflow stage, Kanban prevents teams from overcommitting and helps maintain focus on current tasks. These Work In Progress (WIP) limits are fundamental to maintaining a steady flow of work, reducing cycle times, and increasing overall throughput.

Through this emphasis on visual management and WIP limits, Kanban notably improves workflow. Coupled with some key Kanban metrics, teams can swiftly identify bottlenecks and address issues in real-time. Moreover, Kanban encourages teams to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement by regularly reviewing and adjusting their workflow based on current demands.

In essence, Kanban’s key characteristics facilitate a dynamic and responsive work environment tailored to meet the evolving needs of a project or team.

If you are new to Kanban and would like to learn more about it, then consider joining a Kanban training course leading to Kanban certification.

Defining features of Scrum

Scrum is characterised by its distinct cycles, defined roles, and focus on iterative progress. Scrum provides a disciplined mechanism to manage complex work and deliver high-value products by breaking down large tasks into manageable units of work.

The Sprint cycle in Scrum

At the heart of Scrum lies the Sprint cycle, a time-boxed period typically ranging from one to four weeks, within which teams complete a set amount of work. This cyclic routine includes Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives.

Each Sprint aims to produce a potentially shippable Product Increment, ensuring a rhythm of delivery and review. By working in Sprints, teams can adapt to changes quickly and refine their product in alignment with customer feedback and evolving project requirements.

Roles and responsibilities in Scrum

Within the Scrum framework, three key roles form the pillars of any Scrum team: the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers.

The Product Owner manages the Product Backlog and champions the vision for the project. The Scrum Master acts as a facilitator, ensuring that the team adheres to Scrum practices and overcomes impediments.

Lastly, the Developers, typically cross-functional, carries out the work to deliver the Product Increment. Each role has specific responsibilities, and crucially, they work in unison to promote transparency, inspection, and adaptation, fostering an environment of collective accountability and continuous improvement.

Kanban vs Scrum in practice

When it comes to implementing Agile principles in the real world, both Kanban and Scrum offer valuable yet distinct approaches. Their practical applications can be observed across a myriad of projects and industries, each excelling under different circumstances.

The choice between Scrum and Kanban often hinges on the specific requirements of the project at hand, as well as the dynamics and preferences of the team involved.

Flexibility and adaptability in Kanban

Kanban is often celebrated for its inherent flexibility and adaptability. It allows teams to manage and respond to changes in priorities with ease, without the constraints of predefined Sprints.

This flexibility is particularly beneficial in environments where requirements are continuously changing or when the scope of the work cannot be fully defined upfront. Teams can add, remove, or reprioritise tasks on the Kanban board as needed, providing the ability to adapt quickly to stakeholder feedback or market trends.

With its focus on flow and reduction of cycle time, Kanban enables a more fluid and responsive approach to project management.

Scrum’s structured approach to complexity

Scrum, in contrast, thrives in scenarios where complex work benefits from a structured method. It provides a framework that helps teams to navigate intricate projects by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable segments – the Sprints.

This structure is advantageous when dealing with projects with a well-defined scope or when incremental progress towards a clear end goal is essential. Regular Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives foster a disciplined approach to continuous learning and improvement.

Scrum’s prescribed roles and ceremonies create a robust framework to ensure that even the most complex projects remain on track and deliver high-value Product Increments consistently.

Choosing Kanban or Scrum

When choosing from a range of Agile methodologies, the decision to adopt Kanban or Scrum is key and can significantly impact a team’s productivity and project success.

For professionals grappling with this choice, it is essential to consider various factors, such as team dynamics, project requirements, and the overarching organisational culture.

Understanding the nuances of each framework allows teams to align their methodology with their unique operational needs, thereby optimising their workflows and outputs.

Assessing your team’s needs

When considering Scrum vs. Kanban, choosing the right methodology starts with a thorough assessment of your team’s needs. Consider the nature of your projects: are they complex and require regular reassessment, or are they more straightforward with fewer changes expected?

Scrutinise your team’s expertise, and the way they work together. Scrum may suit teams looking for structure and clear delineation of roles, while Kanban could be the answer for teams needing greater flexibility. It’s also crucial to evaluate how team members respond to change and their capacity to manage workloads.

Reflect on past projects and the challenges faced: was adaptability an issue, or was there a need for more discipline in the approach?

An honest evaluation along these lines can guide you towards the methodology that will enhance your team’s performance and project management efficacy.

Learn from agile leaders

agileKRC has helped shape agile thinking by leading the teams that developed AgilePM® and PRINCE2 Agile®. We take a practical, success-oriented approach. We begin by taking the time to listen and understand your needs, before offering our real-world experience and expert guidance.

This website use cookies. Learn more