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from scrum to kanban

I experienced a Scrum team that started to question the scrum process after some time. One of the options was moving to Kanban. Reading some articles on the web and thinking about the situation inspired me to put some details down.

Often Kanban is described as more agile then Scrum. Only some rules are to consider to do Kanban and more to implement Scrum. Really?

There are different opinions about the minimum number of rules scrum requires. The minimum set of rules to my understanding is:

  • 3 roles
    • product owner
    • scrum master
    • team
  • 3 artifacts
    • product backlog
    • sprint backlog
    • sprint burndown
  • 4 activities
    • sprint planning
    • daily scrum
    • sprint review
    • sprint retrospective

Kanban on the other hand knows even fewer rules:

  • Limit WIP
  • Visualize the workflow
  • Manage flow
  • Make Process Policies Explicit
  • Improve Collaboratively (using models & the scientific method)

As with Scrum there are different opinions about the minimum set of rules required to implement Kanban. Noticeable, Kanban does not define roles as Scrum does. Taking out the roles of the Scrum rule set, you could argue Scrum knows only two rules: 3 artifacts & 4 activities.
Both, the Scrum or Kanban process, are succesful only if it is supported by the people who are involved, no matter if you define roles or not. Also the environment needs to support the agile process choosen.

When is a good point in time to consider switching from scrum to Kanban? I believe there are two indicators that show if a team is agile ( minded ) enough to try the switch from scrum to Kanban:

  • shu ha ri
    Scrum teams having the Scrum level of ha (better ri) could start improving the process.
  • at least more then 3-5 years of doing scrum
    “Too get really, really good requires three to five years of continued improvement through using Scrum in an enterprise.”  The Enterprise and Scrum by Ken Schwaber , 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0735623378, ch.1, p.3

Teams starting to improve Scrum might end up with Kanban or something else. Sometimes Kanban is loved by higher managment because it does not define roles like Scrum Master & Product Owner. Often these roles are staffed with people who did managment jobs before. Sometimes people taking over these roles where software engineers before. Getting rid of Scrum Master & Product Owner role could save budget at first sight. However prioritization of work & taking care of impediments has to be done. Saving the roles does not necessarly do the job.

What ever Scrum teams looking for alternatives end up with, Kanban provides a known pattern with experience and references out there. Looking for other options is highly recommended, but please avoid Scrumbut.

Lothar Schulz

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