Kanban vs. Scrum: Choosing the Right Agile Framework



Which agile framework is best for your organization is always a question when starting. Two popular frameworks within the Agile community are Kanban and Scrum. While both frameworks have their own unique strengths and advantages, determining which one is the right fit for your organization can be a challenging decision. In this article, we will explore the key differences between Kanban and Scrum, and discuss how a hybrid approach can offer the best outcome for businesses. We will also emphasize the importance of keeping Agile values and principles intact, rather than following any framework blindly.


Understanding Kanban:

Kanban is a visual workflow management system that originated from the manufacturing industry. It focuses on maintaining a steady flow of work by limiting work in progress (WIP) and visualizing the entire workflow on a Kanban board. Kanban is particularly effective for teams that have a continuous stream of incoming work and need to manage their workload efficiently. It provides transparency, flexibility, and enables teams to identify bottlenecks and optimize their workflow.


Key principles of Kanban:

1. Visualize the workflow:

Kanban emphasizes visualizing the workflow to provide transparency and a clear understanding of the work process.


2. Limit work in progress:

By setting WIP limits, Kanban ensures that teams do not take on more work than they can handle, preventing overload and improving overall efficiency.


3. Manage flow:

Kanban focuses on optimizing the flow of work through continuous monitoring, analysis, and improvement.


Understanding Scrum:

Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile framework that is widely used for managing complex projects. It is based on the principles of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Scrum divides work into time-boxed iterations called sprints, during which the team collaborates to deliver a potentially shippable product increment. Scrum provides a clear structure and roles, facilitating effective communication and collaboration within the team.


Key components of Scrum:

1. Product backlog:

The product backlog is a prioritized list of features, enhancements, and bug fixes that need to be addressed in the product.


2. Sprint planning:

In Scrum, the team plans the work to be done in a sprint during the sprint planning meeting. They select items from the product backlog to work on based on priority and capacity.


3. Daily scrum:

The daily scrum is a short meeting where team members provide updates on their progress, discuss any obstacles, and plan their work for the day.


4. Sprint review:

At the end of each sprint, the team presents the completed work to stakeholders and collects feedback.


5. Sprint retrospective:

The sprint retrospective is a meeting where the team reflects on their performance, identifies areas for improvement, and defines actionable steps for the next sprint.


Choosing the Right Agile Framework:

Though Kanban and Scrum are best suited for solving different business problems, having a hybrid structure can result in the best outcome. Most importantly, it is essential to keep Agile values and principles intact and not follow any framework by the book. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right agile framework for your organization:


1. Nature of work:

Consider the nature of your work and the level of uncertainty involved. If your work requires a continuous flow and frequent reprioritization, Kanban may be a better fit. On the other hand, if your work involves complex projects with a defined backlog for iterations and fixed timelines, Scrum may be more suitable.


2. Team size and composition:

The size and composition of your team can also influence the choice of framework. Scrum is designed for small, cross-functional teams, there is a lead time required to build the right composition for scrum teams, whereas Kanban can be more quick & flexible to start, accommodating larger teams with varying skill sets.


3. Customer involvement:

Though both frameworks encourage regular customer feedback Scrum is more definitive with stakeholders’ collaboration through sprint reviews, while Kanban focuses more on optimizing workflow efficiency.


4. Organizational culture:

Evaluate your organizational culture and readiness for change. Scrum requires more structured processes and defined roles, which may need some lead time and preparation to kick start. Kanban, on the other hand, can be implemented in any running system without much disturbance.


Hybrid Approach: Combining the Best of Both Worlds

Instead of strictly adhering to one framework, many organizations find success by adopting a hybrid approach that combines the best practices from both Kanban and Scrum. This allows businesses to leverage the strengths of each framework and tailor them to their specific needs. For example, a team may use Scrum for project planning and delivery, while implementing Kanban principles to manage their daily workflow and improve efficiency.


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