Kanban and Scrum are both Agile project management frameworks that can be applied to various situations. While they do have some points in common, they are largely different and were born to serve different functions. This can be seen in every part of their DNA, which can either make them great complementary tools or simply unfit for your particular operation.
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these project management tools involves. We’ll also try to spot the major differences between Kanban and Scrum and how they can be used together in certain scenarios.
The Kanban system is about visualizing your workflow
and limiting work in progress. The system was introduced in 1940 by industrial
engineer Taiichi Ohno. It was first used by the Toyota company to keep track of
processes and for asset management purposes as well.
Another goal of Kanban is to maximize flow or system
efficiency. Kanban teams tend to focus on reducing choke points or cycle time.
The key metrics used in Kanban are work in progress or WIP, cycle time, and
It’s a highly visual system that uses a series of note
cards assigned with tasks that move through various columns until they are
completed. This allows team members and outside stakeholders to see the
progress of tasks in real-time.
Kanban’s main workflow stages are to do, in progress, in review, blocked, and done. The goal is to move everything from doing to do. You don’t start anything new until the work in progress level is below a predetermined threshold.
Scrum is primarily a software development methodology
and is different from Kanban in many ways. With scrum, a given problem or
feature is usually identified first. The software development
team works in intervals called sprints and the whole team
will need to go through daily briefings. If they don’t complete the work on
time or issues are found with the existing solution, they go back for another
Scrum teams have specific roles in each spring, though
they may change roles with each iterative improvement of the design or software
application. The goal is to keep things moving forward. The key metric in scrum
Differences Between Scrum and Kanban
Kanban is a continuous process
improvement methodology that is ideal for
manufacturing. It is made for teams who want to have more control on single
items instead of large overarching projects where whole teams need to be
Scrum was intended for software development and is
quite frankly perfect for it. In fact, scrum will ideally end with the release
of a software package. Kanban keeps going as they try to make the continually
flowing process better and better.
One of the major differences between Scrum and Kanban is how change is managed. Change in scrum is tightly controlled. No one should make changes to the production software application until after the new software is thoroughly tested and approved by the customer. In Kanban, change can happen at any time, so it’s much more fluid and a better option for teams who may need to pivot fast or drop tasks altogether. It also allows us to quickly identify bottlenecks and assign resources in real-time.
Another thing that separates the two is how roles are
assigned. Scrum assigns roles like product owner, scrum master, and development
team, though everyone is considered equal. Kanban doesn’t assign roles, and
also allows for much more independence. Kanban doesn’t have fixed delivery
dates either, while scrum sprints are supposed to have a fixed length interval
which is normally two weeks.
Do Scrum and Kanban Complement Each Other?
Kanban and Scrum can
be used with each other to fill the gaps either one of them has. For example, Scrum
teams may use Kanban to track the tasks they’re doing during a given sprint. It
provides greater visibility into the Scrum project,
but more importantly, makes teams even more Agile.
If you want to learn more about Kanban or advice on setting up Agile teams, Kanbanize has an informative piece on it. It teaches how to set up and manage Agile teams. It discusses using a Kanban tool and a network of interconnected Kanban boards to help everyone visualize and track their work. It also touches on the need to structure a team’s work in progress so that they can easily manage the flow of work from team to team.
Scrum and Kanban can both be managed with project
management tools. Some project management applications allow you to choose
either scrum or Kanban from their list of dedicated project types. You also
have hybrid project management models that combine Kanban and Scrum.
Scrum were originally set up as two very different approaches to
managing processes and projects. However, they can
complement each other or be combined if you have the right tools and understand
the strengths and weaknesses of each.