Kanban vs scrum – know the 6 key differences

Many use the terms Scrum and Kanban interchangeably (and incorrectly). Although Kaban and Scrum can go hand in hand, there exists significant differences between the two. Let’s have a look at what makes these two methodologies different in this Kanban vs Scrum post.

How do they differ?

  1. Roles and responsibilities– In case of Kanban , which is a work visualization tool, there are no pre-defined roles for a team. There can still be a Project Manager, but the team is encouraged to collaboratively work  and step in when any one team member becomes overwhelmed.

In Scrum teams, each team member has a specific role to enact. The Scrum master decides on the workflow and manages the  timelines, the product owner defines the goals and objectives of the sprint and the team members ensure the execution of the work.

2. Kanban vs scrum boards– The scrum board and kanban boards are very similar, but even they have their differences. Lets look at the differences between the two

On a scrum board, the columns are  labeled to reflect periods in the work flow, starting with the sprint backlog and ending with the team’s agreed criteria of a goal completion. The user stories are added at the beginning of the sprint and found in the last column at the completion of the sprint. The board is then cleared and prepared for the next sprint.
The key difference between a kanban board and a Sprint board lies in the columns. Similar to the Scrum boards,the columns in a  kanban board are also labelled to depict the work flow but, in a kanban column, there is a limit placed on the maximum number of kanban cards or stories.This limit on work-in-progess is one of the core principles of Kanban. There are also no required time boxes like sprint length and therefore the need to reset the kanban board does not arise. It will continue to flow for as long as the project continues with new stories being added as and when they arise.

3. Scheduling and iterations– Scrum heavily stresses on planning. It starts with sprint planning  and ends in sprint retrospective.The scrum team is provided with a prioritized list of story points that needs to be completed to deliver a shippable product. The team must decide on how  many of the points can be completed within one sprint. Anything outside the scope of the sprint  the team commits to must wait for the next sprint.

Kanban on the other hand is open to making changes on the go.The rigidity is lesser and the teams can make changes frequently.The limitation placed on the workflow is  designed to achieve an optimal number of tasks to be performed in each stage which will keep the flow steady and efficient.

4. Modifications/ changes– Kanban allows changes to be made to a project mid-stream, allowing continuous improvement even before the completion of the project. Scrum on the other hand strongly discourages changes to be made during a sprint. Anything not within the scope of the particular sprint has to wait for the next sprint.

5. Delegation and prioritization– Kanban and Scrum both use pull system, which is a systematic workflow process that allows teams to pull new tasks once the previous tasks are completed. In Scrum, an entire batch is pulled for interaction whereas kanban allows single pieces of work to be pulled.

6. Key metrics- Scrum uses “velocity” to measure productivity. Velocity is the number of story points that scrum teams complete in a sprint.Velocity helps team to plan the future sprints accordingly. Example: if a team has a  completion of 30 velocity point on an average, it won’t commit to a sprint backlog with  40 points.

Kanban uses metrics such as W-I-P limit and cycle time and lead time to measure its production efficiency. Lead time is the time taken right from the appearance of a task in the workflow to its delivery.Cycle time starts when the work is actually taken up and ends when the product is ready for delivery.

Kanban vs Scrum- Which is better?

There is no definite answer to this question. There are situations where Scrum will suit better and vice versa. Generally, kanban is best for projects with widely-varying priorities whereas scrum works best for teams  with relatively stable priorities that are not likely to change much over time .
Both kanban and Scrum are powerful tools for process improvement. The best way to figure out what works well is to experiment with both in the production environment. A hybrid between the two can also be a good option for your organization.

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