Kanban vs Scrum: Which Method is the Best for Your Organization
Updated October 6, 2023
Agile project development is fast gaining in popularity and according to a PMI study, it was estimated that about 46% of all organizations surveyed have tried or are currently implementing some sort of Agile approach in their business.
What sets Agile project development apart is its iterative and flexible approach, which allows for a more efficient workflow, better project completion times, and fewer roadblocks and bottlenecks. Even though Agile project development methods may share some similarities, they both have their set of pros and cons. And while some might be perfect for your office, others could actually hinder your workflow. Today, we’re going to take a look at two of the most widespread Agile development frameworks, Scrum and Kanban, and see which ones could be more suited to your operation.
What is Scrum Exactly?
Scrum is often seen as the most structured Agile development framework. It was created as a way to help teams work as a unit more efficiently to reach common goals, according to Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, who introduced the method in 1986. Scrum takes bits from both Agile and traditional project management methods and uses them together to form a flexible yet structured approach to project management.
With Scrum, projects are broken up into various tasks just like Agile, but each task has set time limits, which are referred to as sprints. Sprints are usually two to four-week time slots during which each task has to be completed. Some parts of the tasks are shipped every day through daily sprints. This focus on time is one of the reasons why Scrum is viewed as more structured.
In Scrum, sprints have to be reassessed when they’re completed to see if progress is going as planned and make sure that goals that may have changed during the process are met. Responsibilities will be divided between the team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner or PO. The PO should be the one with a full understanding of the scope of the project and every aspect of development. They’re also the ones responsible for making sure that everything is aligning with customer needs and business goals.
Another thing that adds more structure to Scrum is the number of meetings that are required. Each sprint will start with a backlog refinement meeting during which project tasks and leftover tasks from previous sprints will be evaluated, and the tasks that should be focused on will be assessed.
This will be followed by a sprint planning meeting where the product owner will be explaining what the team will be working on and why. User stories will often be shared to give a user’s point of view on certain features or the PO will simply assign specific tasks to teams for the upcoming sprint.
Daily scrum meetings have to be performed so that teams can stay updated on their progress. At the end of the sprint, team members will have to present what has been accomplished to all stakeholders. The goal of this meeting is to make sure that completed sprint items are in line with user and business goals and to push accountability. This is instantly followed by a sprint retrospective meeting where members discuss what has and hasn’t been working and work on possible solutions for the next sprint.
What is Kanban?
While Kanban may look similar on some level, both systems are very different. For one, there are no sprints with Kanban. There are fewer people involved in the process, no need for daily meetings, no time limits, and more focus on individual tasks. It’s also seen as a much more laidback project management approach when compared to Scrum.
Kanban was first introduced by the Toyota company and in many ways works exactly like a factory floor where a piece of metal can go through various stages and end up as a finished product.
Kanban is also a much more visually driven approach. Each task is clearly marked on a Kanban card and pulled through the Kanban board. The board will have different columns specifying each stage of your workflow. This will give you a clear instant view of how each task is progressing and where there could be some bottlenecks.
Kanban gives more autonomy to your workers, who can work on certain tasks individually without having to brief other members each day on their progress. Kanban also allows you to set limits on your work in progress, which will help teams to prevent over-commitment and allows for continuous flow of tasks as well.
Which Option is Better?
There isn’t one definitive option there and both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, there will be clear differences between a Kanban vs Scrum board that may or may not work for you. Kanban software like Kanbanize (who have written up another detailed comparison of Kanban vs Scrum) will allow your team to map out all its processes and work items. This will allow for better work visibility and more transparency in its progress.
While Scrum software used to focus more on using text-centered interfaces where work functions looked more like folders with items inside, they are now using more of a Kanban-like approach to visualization. However, Scrum will still have its limits and units of works will have to stay intact from the beginning to the end of the sprint, for instance.
Kanban works well if you have an experienced team that can work with fewer rules. If you have an inexperienced team, then it might be more difficult for them to take the initiative and fill in blanks on their own. Scrum focuses more on cross-functional teamwork, which could actually help inexperienced teams by providing more structure and feedback.
However, if your business’s priorities change on a daily basis, Scrum is not recommended. Scrum’s goal is exactly to cancel noise from the outside and focus on very specific tasks. With Kanban, you can change direction whenever you want and prioritize tasks at will.
Deciding on which project management method would be better for your organization depends on many factors. Make sure that you consider your needs and current approach and use the right tools to make sure you implement any method the right way. This will allow you to make a clearer assessment of which method would be a better fit for you and your team.