These days every blog discussing agile topics should have a big hairy article on Scrum versus Kanban, so here it is. Well, just joking. Actually many people, way wiser than me, approached that subject some time ago already presenting different arguments. If you want to hear some of the strongest opinions out there check Ken Schwaber’s post on how Scrum is good and Kanban sucks. If you look for more weighted opinion David Anderson shared one. Just recently Mike Cohn also added very reasonable two cents to the discussion even though he actually doesn’t agree with David.
Also there’s been a lot written about Scrumbut and Scrumban. I don’t see the point in repeating once again that if something works for your team – go for it, no matter if that breaks the orthodoxy of the method of your choice.
Note: I’m well aware that until now I just share what I’m not going to write about. Is this post is going to be just a set of links to some good articles though? No, not exactly, but please do check mentioned articles – they’re a piece of good reading. Anyway, to the point. There’s one thing which is often mentioned as one of main differences between Kanban and Scrum but I think this is the core of the whole this versus that thing.
From pretty much every Scrum and Kanban comparison you’ll learn that introducing Scrum is a revolution while with Kanban it is rather evolution. You’ll also be pointed that both approaches foster improvement. Now, finally, after all that beating around the bush: my point here is how Scrum revolution differs from Kanban evolution in terms of introducing improvements and why it is so.
Team model and software development process
Let me start with something I was learning for quite a long time (no, I’m not that bright to catch it during the first class):
Scrum proposes pretty damn good team model and process for building software.
If you look for model team which would work in majority of situations go for a Scrum team: cross-functional, small and tightly-integrated. If you look for healthy approach to software development you can’t really go wrong with Scrum. Scrum is well-thought and well-weighted approach. No surprise it ruled the agile world.
On the other hand Kanban tells you that your team model is good for now, no matter how it is organized. And your process of building software is OK even if it’s pretty chaotic. For now.
Kanban doesn’t propose any specific team model or software development approach.
It basically means that you get no hints whatsoever how the well-organized team would look like. Nil. Nothing. Find out by yourself. No help here. Well, almost.
When organizing Scrum team you can basically turn your thinking off. Well, sort of. It’s all in the book. Someone took the effort to propose team model which I’ve just labeled “pretty damn good.” Same with the process you’re meant to follow.
Kanban chooses the other approach: we don’t know what optimal solution for your team is. Here’s some help but you’re going to learn it by yourself.
The difference? Pretty damn good doesn’t automatically mean optimal. Scrum is optimized for majority of teams, not for your unique group. Yes, of course, Scrum has improvement mechanisms, retrospective being the flagship here, but in terms of general rules it stays unchanged.
Kanban accepts that starting point may be way worse than in Scrum case but leaves you all options open. You aren’t really constrained with specific practices or models. What you’re going to end up with is totally on you and your team.
Help you get
You can put it in other words if you prefer. Scrum tells you how you should change, at least to some point. Scrum is like your mother-in-law – she always knows that you suck here and there and how exactly you should act to be um… better.
Kanban on the other hand is like your friend, close but probably not the best one you have. He’ll try to show you where you could improve but won’t state it explicitly. It’s just not that kind of relationship. It will be rather a set of hints and smoke signs – it’s you who chooses to use them to change yourself or just ignore them.
Which one is better
Neither. Despite comparisons I’ve just use I really think there’s no winner here. And yes, I’m generally considered as a Kanban guy but I also strongly believe there’s no silver bullet.
If you need a kick start Scrum may give you one even though it imposes some constraints on the way you work. On the other hand if you have in your team someone who is experienced with variety of different methods it may be a good idea to start with Kanban and check where it’s going to lead you.
After all, since I’m not an orthodox, I’ll also tell you should experiment like crazy, no matter which path you choose. Heck, that’s where all those Scrumbans started – people were changing their process, people were breaking The Holy Rules of The Method just to end up with something more optimal for them.
If I want you to remember one thing from this post it would be: Scrum tells you explicitly how to organize work and improve things, while Kanban tells you nothing about the ideal models and helps you find out the optimal way by yourself.
After all, this post is big and hairy so I guess I succeeded with the task anyway.Advertisement: Protect your business from a surprise software audit with License Dashboard.