SCRUM vs Kanban

Tim Allen
2 min readMar 4, 2021
Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

Having worked in teams that use both methodologies, I thought I’d offer some humble thoughts on the pros and cons of each, that could help you choose one.

Kanban is described as a lean methodology, with the overarching goal of maximising throughput through your ‘people system’. It does this by providing for these principles:

  • allow you to manage the work, not the people
  • minimise work in progress
  • identify and address flow issues/blockages
  • deliver the closest value to the customer first

SCRUM, on the other hand provides more for a set of processes involving a timeboxed cadence for human collaboration (eg the daily standup, sprint planning/kickoff/retro). It broadly encourages the following principles/behaviours:

  • regular, iterative communication
  • continual reevaluation of both processes and work

In practice though, most teams will implement elements of both approaches. For example, a team running SCRUM will often have a Kanban board of sorts, and vice versa, a team running Kanban may have ‘sprint like’ time based goals.

As a developer, here are the things I noticed about each:

Kanban

Promotes more of a sense of a team working on a body of work together. There is a greater sense of needing to collaborate, and it’s clear where the interface points are between team members/phases. It’s also easy to understand what everyone is doing.

I feel like it’s worth incorporating something of the notion of goals/sprints which you could get automatically with SCRUM. For example, at least having a weekly goal provides some additional discipline around the deliverables/managing the work in progress.

SCRUM

I have actually loved the level of focus that the daily standup brings to my own work. It’s kind of a nice reflection point on your work and a built in chance to plan the day ahead.

I personally really enjoy the ‘sprint’ notion as it gives you a chance to have a ‘win’ every two weeks if you can achieve your sprint goal. I think there’s a built in rhythm and enforced breaking up of the work to shippable pieces.

I find it more individualistic. It’s about ‘my’ sprint goals’, what ‘I’ did yesterday/will do today, etc. Which isn’t always a problem, but it’s an observation.

It’s harder to know what other people are doing. With the daily stand up, there is a daily checkpoint, but you can’t easily refer to it visually.

Conclusion

So which do I prefer? Overall, I feel that kanban is a really powerful tool with a lot of great disciplines built in. To effectively use kanban you do need buy-in from the team to invest in the lean principles, which does take a bit of ideological work to get everyone on the same page. In my view, well done lean + kanban enables the highest performing teams. And you can still implement a lot of the SCRUM elements if you desire.

--

--