Kanban vs Scrum

When it comes to project management methodologies, there are a lot of options to choose from. Two of the most popular options are Kanban and Scrum. Both of these methods have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice for your team will depend on your specific needs. Both methods can be effective in the right hands. If you’re wondering about the differences between Kanban and Scrum, read on for a detailed breakdown.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a project management system that was originally developed by Toyota in the 1950s. The word “Kanban” comes from the Japanese words for “signboard” or “billboard.” The Kanban system is based on the principle of just-in-time manufacturing, which is a lean manufacturing technique that minimizes waste by only producing what is needed when it is needed.

The Kanban system was designed to improve efficiency and quality control in manufacturing, but it has since been adapted for use in other industries, including software development. In the Kanban system, work is divided into small pieces, and each piece is assigned to a specific team member. Team members pull work from a shared backlog as they have the capacity, and they move the work through several stages of development until it is complete.

The Kanban system is designed to be flexible and adaptable. There is no set timeframe for each stage of development, and team members can move work back and forth between stages as needed. The goal of the Kanban system is to minimize wasted time and effort by keeping work flowing smoothly through the development process.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a project management system that was developed in the early 1990s by a group of software developers who were looking for a more efficient way to develop software. Unlike Kanban, which is based on the principle of just-in-time manufacturing, Scrum is based on the principle of iterative development.

In Scrum, work is divided into small pieces, and each piece is assigned to a specific team member. Team members work on their assigned pieces for a set period of time, called a sprint. At the end of the sprint, the team delivers a working product.

The Scrum system is designed to be flexible and adaptable. There is no set timeframe for each stage of development, and team members can move work back and forth between stages as needed. The goal of the Scrum system is to minimize wasted time and effort by keeping work flowing smoothly through the development process.

Scrum vs Kanban: Differences

Project Planning

One of the biggest differences is that Scrum uses sprints, while Kanban does not. Sprint is a set period of time during which team members work on their assigned pieces. At the end of the sprint, the team delivers a working product. The length of a sprint can vary depending on the needs of the team, but it is typically two weeks or less. This method helps to ensure that teams are making steady progress and that deadlines are met.

In contrast, Kanban does not use sprints but instead relies on a continuous flow of work. This means that there is no set timeline for each task, and team members can start working on new tasks as soon as they finished the previous one. This can help to avoid bottlenecks and ensure that tasks are completed as soon as possible. 

Roles

Another difference between Kanban and Scrum is that Scrum has more defined roles and responsibilities than Kanban.

In Scrum, there are three primary roles: the product owner, the scrum master, and the development team.

  • The product owner is responsible for defining the features of the product and prioritizing the work.
  • The scrum master is responsible for facilitating the scrum process and ensuring that the team members are working effectively.
  • The development team is responsible for actually developing the product.

Kanban doesn’t assign roles to team members; it just allows them to keep their same responsibilities.

Flexibility

Scrum is a more prescriptive system than Kanban. That is, Scrum provides more specific guidance on how the development process should be carried out. In Scrum, for example, the role of the Scrum Master is very clearly defined, as are the roles of the other team members.

There are also specific rules about how and when sprints should be carried out, and how progress should be tracked. This level of prescription can help ensure that the development process is carried out effectively and efficiently. However, it can also lead to inflexibility and rigidity, which can be problematic if the team needs to adapt to changes in the environment or respond to unexpected challenges.

Kanban, on the other hand, is more flexible and adaptable. This flexibility can be both a strength and a weakness, depending on the needs of the team.

On one hand, it allows teams to tailor their development process to their specific needs and context. On the other hand, it can lead to chaos and confusion if team members are not clear about their roles and responsibilities or if there is no clear plan for how work should be carried out.

Meetings

Meetings aren’t mandatory in Kanban while it is more defined structures in Scrum.

There are four main types of meetings that teams following Scrum typically have: Daily Scrums, Sprint planning, Sprint review, and Sprint retrospective.

  • Daily Scrums are quick check-ins that help to ensure that everyone is aware of what needs to be done and that there are no impediments to progress.
  • Sprint planning is a longer meeting at the beginning of each Sprint cycle where the team sets objectives and decides how to best achieve them.
  • Sprint review is an opportunity for the team to demo their completed work and get feedback from stakeholders.
  • Sprint retrospective is a meeting at the end of each cycle where the team reflects on what went well and what could be improved for future Sprints.

While attending all four types of meetings can be time-consuming, they play an important role in ensuring the success of Scrum projects.

Kanban doesn’t have as many defined meeting structures. However, it does advocate for regular check-ins to ensure that work is flowing smoothly.

Work in Progress Limits

Kanban teams typically set limits on the number of items that can be in progress at any given time. This helps to prevent team members from becoming overloaded and ensures that work is moving through the system efficiently.

Scrum teams don’t typically set limits on work in progress. However, they may choose to do so if it makes sense for their particular project.

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