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Scrum vs Kanban – Which one shall we adopt?

How it all started?

Before we get into details of Scrum vs Kanban, we will take a top-down approach, first thing to understand is What is Agile? and Agile Manifesto .  This will give you a view of the agile revolution, Scrum and Kanban are part of this structure.

The Agile Manifesto, which has 4 values and 12 principles, is supported by frameworks; two famous frameworks are Scrum and Kanban.

Scrum vs Kanban – What are these frameworks all about?

The next part is to understand these frameworks before we decide which one to adopt over the other.

What is Scrum?

What is Kanban?

Difference between Scrum vs Kanban  

CriteriaScrumKanban
InceptionSoftware Development (A Framework created for software development)Originated from Lean Manufacturing
ApproachEach element of the scrum framework serves a specific purpose that is essential to the overall value and results realized with Scrum. This has to be followed.Less prescriptive as compared to Scrum, 3 Kanban practices are must
AccountabilitiesScrum defines three specific accountabilities within the Scrum Team: the Developers, the Product Owner, and the Scrum MasterDoes not have defined accountabilities
Iterative approachFollows Iterative approachDoes not follow iterative approach
CadenceSprints have fixed length events of one month or lessContinuous flow
PlanningScrum events for planning are Sprint Planning, Daily ScrumNo defined cadence for planning however team can decide based on context

Conclusion – Scrum vs Kanban

There is no prescribed answer to use Scrum or Kanban. It all boils down to one aspect and that is context. Try one framework for a certain period and inspect and adapt and track the progress, move it to the next if you don’t see progress. Either Scrum or Kanban, continuous improvement is the key.

Who is a Scrum Master?

A common question, who is a scrum master. It is always advisable to refer the scrum guide and understand about scrum master. A scrum master is one who –

  • Establishes scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide
  • Accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness
  • Serves the Scrum Team and the larger organization
  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.

Source – Scrum Guide 2020

Tip – If you are new to scrum and reading this, we encourage you to read the Scrum Guide thoroughly. This will give you a good understanding of Scrum.

As a servant leader, a scrum master serves the scrum team, product owner and the organization. Let’s understand a bit in detail the roles and responsibilities of a scrum master towards these teams –

For the Scrum Team:

● Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;

● Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done;

● Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress

● Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.

For the Product Team:

● Helping find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management;

● Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;

● Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment;

● Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed.

For the Organization:

● Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;

● Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;

● Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work;

● Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams

Summary

A Scrum Master plays a key role as this person ensures the right implementation of scrum framework, coaches the team, remove impediments for improving team’s effectiveness.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework built with a purpose to generate value to the people, teams and organizations following it. It is not prescriptive which gives the liberty to the users to introduce various processes, techniques and methods within the framework.

History of Scrum

In the year 2010, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland created the scrum guide. A revised version was published in 2017. In the year 2020, another version of scrum guide was published.

What is Scrum Theory?

Foundation of Scrum stands on 2 concepts – (1) Empiricism and (2) Lean Thinking. Empiricism states that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed. Lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the essentials.

Refer Scrum Guide 2020, Page 3

Scrum Events

There are 5 Scrum events –

  • The Sprint – It is the heartbeat of Scrum. Fixed length event – Can range from a week to a month. The Sprint is a container for all other events. Each event in Scrum is a formal opportunity to inspect and adapt Scrum artifacts. These events are specifically designed to enable the transparency required.
  • Sprint Planning – Backlog prioritization and identifying what is of value
  • Daily Scrum – Time boxed meeting of team members to focus on the goal. 
  • Sprint Review – Demonstration of the work completed by the team to the stakeholders
  • Sprint Retrospective – Reflecting on the sprint – what went well, what can continue and what can be improved.

Scrum combines four formal events for inspection and adaptation within a containing event, the Sprint.

Scrum Artifacts

There are three formal artifacts in scrum –

  • Product back log – List of items required for the overall product
  • Sprint backlog – List of items specific for the sprint
  • Product increment -It contains all the backlog items completed in the current sprint and prior sprints.

Scrum Team

The Scrum Team consists of –

  • Scrum Master – The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
  • Product Owner – The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.
  • Developers – Developers are the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment each Sprint.

Conclusion

Overall, Scrum is an extremely popular framework of agile. Do note that Scrum is one of the framework in agile and falls under the agile umbrella. Scrum has 5 events, 3 artifacts and scrum team. Scrum is easy to understand and difficult to master, this is a common phrase and one will realize and understand scrum better as they move on the scrum journey.

Learn about agile scaling frameworks- What are the agile scaling frameworks?