Kanban for Scrum Team

Scrum, Kanban and Scrumban are lean and agile methods, based on pull scheduling approach and the concept of self-organizing teams. Both require breaking the work into tasks, put an emphasis
on using transparency as a key process improvement factor and highlight the importance of empirical metrics for stimulating continuous work optimization and increasing productivity.

Kanban and Scrum – differences and similarities

Kanban and Scrum present different approach to a change. While implementing Scrum is a shock treatment for a team and whole organization, a revolution in roles, responsibilities and procedures, Kanban means an evolutionary change in existing process. Scrum is about splitting and optimizing. It assumes the breakdown of: organization into small cross-functional teams, work into small concrete tasks and time into short time-boxed iterations (sprints). Next step is to optimize the process by analyzing velocity after the iteration.
On the other side, Kanban requires implementing five core practices: visualize the workflow, limit work in progress, measure the lead time, make process policies explicit and use models to evaluate improvement opportunities.

Kanban, Scrum or Scrumban fit different context. That is why, the decision about implementing one of those methods in team should be based on the careful analysis of an organization and its processes. However, there are some areas, where Scrum practices are more likely to cause problems and where Kanban method brings better results, for example when the customer requirements change often. So, if you want to focus on the value for your customers and high-quality products, avoid employees stress and demotivation, Kanban might be a tool of choice for your organization. It is definitely worth trying!

Insightful comparison of Scrum and Kanban

The table below covers the detailed list of differences between Scrum and Kanban method. Compare and choose the method that fits your team and organization.

Scrum Kanban
Fixed-lenght iterations Required Optional
Commitment to a specific amount of work Required - at the personal daily level and at the team level (per sprint) Optional
Metrics for planning process improvement Velocity Lead Time
Cross-functional teams Required Optional
Item size So it can be completed within one sprint No particular
Prescribed diagram type Burndown chart No particular
Work-in-progess limits Per sprint Per workflow state
Estimations Required Optional
Adding new items to ongoing iteration Not allowed Allowed
Sharing sprint backlog/ kanban board Within one team With multiple teams or individuals
Prescribed team roles Project Owner, Scrum Master, Team Member No
Board life-time Reset after each iteration Persistent
Prioritization Requires a prioritized product backlog Optional

Still unable to choose between Scrum, Kanban or Scrumban? Test Kanban in action!

Applying Kanban vs Scrum

When considering whether adapting Kanban or Scrum would be the right choice for your situation, consider specific characteristics of your work, team and organization.

How do you work?

Kanban Scrum
  • Your work is often interrupted with new, immediate tasks.
  • You need to be flexible and highly responsive to changes.
  • You are unable to lock your backlog for a couple of weeks.
  • Your work more often involves repeatable tasks than new ones.
  • You do feature development which relies heavily on stakeholders' feedback.
  • You can run only one project at a time.

What is your team type?

You have a small, medium or large team of specialists in the the same or related fields. Your team is small and cross-functional.

What is the specificity of your organization?

  • Your organization has low maturity.
  • You have a limited capability of risk taking, change management and decisions making.
  • You have time to let the culture and performance evolve and improve.
  • Your organization is highly mature.
  • You are capable of assessing risk, managing changes, evaluating alternatives and making good quality decisions.
  • You can only make changes in your company using shock therapy - revolution in your organizational culture and approach to team and project management

In general, Kanban is evolution while Scrum is revolution. But the biggest difference is that Kanban is much easier to start with and more forgiving system. It is based on evolution approach that let you make mistakes as long as you learn from them and constantly improve the flow of your work. You start with whatever process you want to optimize, map the workflow, measure the the process, visualize it and start to pull work instead of pushing it. Scrum, Scrumban and Kanban are useful and valid in the right context.

How is Kanban better?

Decision about whether to use Kanban or Scrum should be based on the in depth situation analysis. However, there are some areas, where Kanban performs superior and it might provide better results to your company. Kanban focuses on delivering value and minimizing waste. Everything, what does not add value should be eliminated. Scrum does not follow this philosophy. Unlike Scrum, which attaches utmost importance to velocity, Kanban focuses on measuring Lead Time - the key metric from the customer perspective. Lead Time is the time it takes to deliver the final product or service to the customer. Scrum focuses on completing sprints, which makes your work quite stressful. Kanban offers steady, continuous, high flow of work.

Scrum is based on cross-functional teams, which means combining experts from various areas in a one team. Kanban gives you an opportunity to to sit with people doing the same things as you do, who can help solve problems or suggest better solutions. Furthermore, Scrum uses commitment as a change agent. However commitment you can't control gives either frustration, stress and demotivation. Kanban uses work-in-progress limits and eliminates negative side effects of commitments. In contrast to Scrum, Kanban can handle interruptions. This significantly extends the number of possible implementations of this method. Kanban is suitable for more uses that Scrum cannot handle well, like: support, bug tracking and operations. Kanban is simple with few constrains - some actions such as: estimations, prioritization or timeboxed iterations are optional so you can easily adjust the method to your business model.