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Scrum or Kanban? Yes!

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Our summary and key takeaways

This article had been inspired by the LSSC10 conference, at the beginning if which Michael Sahota, a self claimed Lean/Agile coach, had been receiving mixed messages about Kanban. Some said it's simply a time for change, hence Kanban, others claimed its more widely applicable than previous methods and therefore needed to be spread.

Agile – Lean - Kanban

Michael had a lot of practice with Scrum and XP, and had been advocating for Scrum as a simple way to go Agile and improve the teamwork in general. He had also been implementing Kanban and Scrumban boards for various companies over the years. In Michael's view there is nothing in the Agile Manifesto that excludes Kanban. While some experts enjoy underlining the differences between Kanban and Agile, he believes, that since the one thing that is really gone from Kanban, that exists in core Agile, is the iteration, there is no reason why we shouldn't focus on the similarities – positives.

The core points of the conference for Michael were:

  • Kanban as the best fit for support groups.
  • Naked Planning (applying eXtreme Programming to a single flow item) bases on multi-functional teams focusing on quickly delivering a minimal marketable feature (MMF).
  • For a specific large team, sharing Quality Assurance and Product people, Kanban didn't work because the size of the group had clearly been to much, and the planning itself took way to long.
  • Evolution of Kanban is possible (as proven by Allison Vale) and can prove successful.
  • A combination of Scrum for problem and design processes and a production-style Kanban for the development, proving a workable solution.

Kanban and Scrum

Basing on the above case studies, presented during the conference, Michael had come up with an insightful differences - best aspects of Kanban and Scrum separately.
Kanban - is adaptable to a changing scenario, fits divergent teams with specialized roles best, excels most with repeatable processes (i.e. production line) and is well suited for large teams, since the need for communication is limited.

Scrum - allows to achieve most, when applied to teams requiring a lot of innovation and strict collaboration, is best suited for small teams, works great as a goal and context provider, it also seems very attractive to people of a generalist approach.

Is making one choice possible?

The choice of the best Agile methodology depends very much on the circumstances of the team. Scrum seems to be the best fit with focused and exploratory teams, whereas Kanban tends to suit specialized work, with frequent interruptions best. He underlines the fluidity of the boundaries between these distinctions, and repeats that this is a case of finding the best fit for a specific team.

Apples and oranges

Henrik Kniberg used the metaphor of a knife and fork to compare Scrum and Kanban. As with cutlery, deciding which is better will simply depend on the circumstances. It's best to know as many methodologies as there are, so that you can always choose the one most suitable for the situation.

Read our article comparing Kanban and Scrum »