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Kanban Vs. Scrum: What's the Difference

In today's fast-paced and dynamic business landscape, it is crucial to understand the Kanban vs. Scrum framework comparison. These two popular frameworks within the Agile domain offer flexible, iterative approaches to project management, enabling teams to deliver value quickly while maintaining transparency and adaptability. 

About 85 per cent of project teams reported the Kanban Board as more effective than other methods, according to the State of Kanban Report of 2022. The same report revealed 9 in 10 survey respondents utilise Scrum methodologies in their projects. Read this blog to find out which work management methods you can follow between Kanban & Scrum, and learn the difference between them. 

Table of Contents 

1) Overview of Kanban methodology 

    a) Visualisation using Kanban Boards 

    b) Concept of Work In Progress (WIP)  

    c) Examples of industries using Kanban 

2) Overview of Scrum methodology 

    a) Scrum roles and responsibilities 

    b) Scrum event types 

    c) Scrum sprints 

3) Key Differences between Kanban Vs. Scrum 

4) Synergy between Kanban and Scrum 

5) Conclusion 

Overview of Kanban methodology 

Kanban, derived from the Japanese word for "visual signal," originated in the manufacturing industry in the 1940s. Toyota popularised it as part of their Just-in-Time (JIT) production system. Today, Kanban has found its place beyond manufacturing and has become a widely adopted Agile methodology across various industries. 

At its core, Kanban is a visual project management approach that aims to optimise workflow efficiency and improve the delivery of value. It operates based on several fundamental principles and values. A key principle of Kanban is visualising work, which is achieved using Kanban boards. They represent the workflow and provide a clear, real-time visualisation of the status of each task or work item.   
 

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Visualisation using Kanban Boards

Visualisation using Kanban boards is a key aspect of the Kanban methodology. Kanban boards provide a clear and visual representation of the workflow, allowing teams to efficiently understand the status of tasks or work items. By using columns to represent different stages of work, such as "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done," teams can track the progress of each task at a glance. Kanban boards serve as a central information hub, facilitating collaboration and ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding work status.

Concept of Work In Progress (WIP)

The concept of Work In Progress (WIP) is a fundamental aspect of Kanban methodology. WIP refers to the number of tasks or work items currently in progress at any given time within each stage of the workflow. Kanban sets explicit limits on WIP to prevent overloading the team and optimise workflow efficiency.   

Teams are encouraged to focus on completing existing tasks before taking on new ones, reducing multitasking and improving overall productivity. They can achieve this by implementing WIP limits, which help identify bottlenecks, promote smoother flow, and enable teams to manage their capacity and resources better. This concept ensures a balanced and sustainable workflow, leading to faster delivery times and improved team performance.

Examples of industries using Kanban

Kanban is a versatile methodology that can be applied across various industries and sectors. Some examples of industries where Kanban has found widespread adoption include:

Examples of industries using Kanban

1) Software development: Kanban aids in managing and tracking the progress of software projects, ensuring efficient delivery of features and bug fixes. 

2) IT operations: IT operations teams utilise Kanban to handle service requests, incidents, and infrastructure maintenance.   

3) Manufacturing: Kanban helps streamline production processes, minimise waste, and optimise inventory management. 

4) Healthcare: Kanban improves patient flow, manages appointments, and enhances the efficiency of medical services. 

5) Marketing: Kanban helps streamline campaign management, content creation, and task prioritisation, ensuring efficient execution and timely delivery of marketing initiatives. 

6) Customer support: Kanban enables teams to effectively track and manage customer inquiries, prioritise tasks, and ensure timely resolution, improving customer satisfaction. 

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Overview of Scrum methodology

The Scrum methodology operates on an iterative and incremental structure, aiming to swiftly deliver value while adapting to evolving requirements. At its core, Scrum relies on a self-organising and cross-functional team collaborating closely to ensure the production of high-quality products. Essential Scrum events, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective, occur regularly, creating opportunities for communication, collaboration, and inspection. Embracing the Scrum of scrum philosophy, the methodology also emphasises empirical process control, basing decisions on observation, transparency, and adaptation. Organisations adopting Scrum can cultivate transparency, efficiency, and continuous improvement, allowing them to respond effectively to customer needs and incrementally deliver value throughout the project.

Enhance your team’s collaborative spirit, by signing up for the Scrum Master Course now! 

Scrum roles and responsibilities

From enhanced communication to providing opportunities for inspection, there are many Advantages of Scrum.

1) Product owner: The product owner defines and prioritises the product backlog, represents the stakeholders, and ensures the team delivers maximum value.

2) Scrum master: The Scrum master serves as a facilitator and coach for the Scrum team. They ensure that Scrum principles and practices are followed, remove any impediments that hinder progress, and promote a collaborative work environment. 

3) Development team: The development team consists of cross-functional members responsible for delivering the product increment. They self-organise, collaborate, and collectively decide how to accomplish the work.

Scrum event types

Scrum incorporates various event types to facilitate communication, collaboration, and inspection throughout the project. Here are the different event types:

Scrum event types

1) Sprint planning: This event marks the start of each Sprint, where the Product Owner and Development Team collaborate to define the Sprint goal and select the backlog items to be worked on during the Sprint. They create the Sprint Backlog, a plan detailing the tasks required to deliver the increment. 

2) Daily Scrum: A brief, time-boxed daily meeting where the Development Team synchronises their work. They discuss what was done since the last meeting, what they plan to do next, and any potential impediments. The Daily Scrum fosters transparency, identifies potential issues, and promotes collaboration. 

3) Sprint review: The team demonstrates the increment to stakeholders and gathers feedback, at the end of each sprint. Based on the feedback, the Product Owner and stakeholders provide input, and any necessary adjustments are made to the Product Backlog. 

4) Sprint retrospective: A reflection meeting where the Scrum team discusses the positives, the improvements, and actionable steps for enhancing their processes. It enables continuous learning, encourages self-improvement, and strengthens the team's effectiveness. 

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Scrum sprints

Scrum Sprints are time-boxed iterations in which the Scrum team completes a set of prioritised work items. Sprints generally last two to four weeks and provide a focused timeframe for planning, developing, and delivering a potentially shippable product increment.

During the Sprint, the team collaborates closely, working on the tasks identified in the Sprint Backlog. The team presents the completed tasks during the Sprint Review and reflects on their performance in the Sprint Retrospective. Sprints enable the team to deliver value incrementally, gather feedback, and continuously improve.

Key Differences between Kanban and Scrum

Here are the points of comparison highlighted for Kanban vs. Scrum methodologies: 

Aspect 

Kanban 

Scrum 

Workflow 

Continuous flow with no fixed iterations 

 

Time-boxed iterations called Sprints 

Planning 

Work added or reprioritised at any time 

Work planned for each Sprint 

 

Work in Progress (WIP) 

WIP limits are set to optimise flow and prevent overloading 

 

No explicit WIP limits, but focus on Sprint commitment 

Roles and Ceremony 

No defined roles or ceremonies 

Defined roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team) and ceremonies (Planning, Review, Retrospective) 

 

Flexibility 

Highly flexible, adapting to changing priorities 

Less flexible, with fixed scope and goals for each Sprint 

 

Focus 

Efficiency, workflow optimisation, and continuous improvement 

Collaboration, self-organisation, and delivering value incrementally 

 

Visualisation 

Visualising workflow using Kanban boards 

Visualisation of progress through Sprint Backlog and Burndown charts 

 

Adaptability 

Suitable for unpredictable or changing requirements 

Suitable for projects with defined requirements and scope 

 

Planning  

Short-term planning and adaptation based on immediate needs 

 

Longer-term planning and adherence to Sprint goals 

Customer Engagement 

Continuous interaction and feedback 

 

Periodic feedback during Sprint Review 

Metrics 

Lead time, cycle time, and flow efficiency 

 

Velocity, burn-up or burn-down charts 

 

Synergy between Kanban and Scrum

The synergy between Kanban and Scrum can be discussed in the following points:

Synergy between Kanban and Scrum

1) Visualising workflow: The practice of visualising workflow through Kanban boards can significantly enhance Scrum teams' understanding and management of their work. Teams can easily track the status of each item, identify bottlenecks, and ensure smooth flow, by visualising tasks and their progression across columns such as "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done," This visual representation fosters transparency, encourages collaboration, and facilitates a common understanding among team members with the work at hand. 
 

2) Work in Progress (WIP) limits: Kanban's concept of setting WIP limits can be a valuable addition to Scrum teams. The team can put limits on the number of active tasks at any given time, teams can maintain focus, reduce multitasking, and improve overall flow. WIP limits provide a mechanism for identifying and addressing bottlenecks, promoting better throughput and faster delivery of work items. This practice also encourages teams to complete existing tasks before starting new ones, thereby increasing efficiency and ensuring that resources are effectively utilised. 

3) Structured time-boxed iterations: Scrum's time-boxed iterations, known as Sprints, bring structure and predictability to project management. By integrating this aspect into Kanban, teams can benefit from the fixed period for planning, execution, and review. Sprints create a sense of urgency, promote regular delivery of value, and allow for frequent inspection and adaptation. By leveraging Sprints within Kanban, teams can enhance their ability to set achievable goals, maintain a consistent pace of work, and provide stakeholders with a clear cadence of progress updates. 

4) Roles and responsibilities: Scrum's defined roles, such as the Product Owner and Scrum Master, can provide valuable guidance and support within Kanban teams. The Product Owner ensures clear prioritisation of work items, communicates the product vision and represents stakeholder interests. The Scrum Master facilitates the team's adherence to Agile principles, removes impediments, and promotes a collaborative environment. Integrating these roles into Kanban teams enhances accountability, communication, and the overall effectiveness of the team's workflow. 

5) Continuous improvement: Both Kanban and Scrum share a focus on continuous improvement. By integrating retrospective practices from Scrum into Kanban, teams can regularly reflect on their processes, identify areas for enhancement, and experiment with changes to optimise workflow. Retrospectives provide a dedicated space for open discussions, sharing lessons learned, and implementing improvements. This continuous improvement mindset fosters a culture of learning, adaptability, and ongoing refinement, allowing teams to enhance their performance and deliver better outcomes over time. 

6) Flexibility and adaptability: The team can combine Kanban's flexibility with changing priorities and Scrum's adaptability in managing fixed goals to create a hybrid approach that suits the specific needs of a project. This hybrid approach enables teams to strike a balance between agility and predictability, responding to change while ensuring alignment with project objectives. 

7) Collaboration and alignment: The combination of Kanban and Scrum promotes collaboration and alignment within teams. By embracing collaboration principles from both methodologies, teams can foster a culture of shared responsibility, cross-functional collaboration, and collective ownership of project goals. The synergy between Kanban and Scrum encourages teamwork, cooperation, and a shared commitment to delivering value to stakeholders.

Conclusion 

This blog has discussed the contrast between the Kanban vs Scrum frameworks. Kanban focuses on visualising and optimising workflow, while Scrum emphasises time-boxed iterations and incremental value delivery. Even learn about Scrum Board and Kanban Board differences to get a better idea. Managers can choose between the two depending on the needs and context of the project. Understanding the key differences between Kanban and Scrum enables teams to select the methodology that best aligns with their goals and enhances their project management practices.
 
Become an efficient Scrum professional, by signing up for the Scrum Certification Training Courses now! 

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