New Guide Helps Debunk 3 Common Misconceptions about Kanban & Scrum
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Dan Neumann

New Guide Helps Debunk 3 Common Misconceptions About Kanban & Scrum

By: Dan Neumann
March 3, 2018

Earlier this week, Scrum.org and Kanban community leaders published a guide to using the Scrum framework and Kanban method together. My first reaction was that of excitement, especially seeing the communities cooperating. As many of us know, there are too many silos that exist within the agile community—and this guide is a step toward breaking those down.

My second reaction was one of hopefulness. This guide not only makes it very clear that Kanban and Scrum can coexist within the same team, but also offers some practical insights on how to make the most of that coexistence. I’m also hopeful that the guide’s explanation of Kanban practices will resolve some lingering misconceptions that people have about using Scrum and Kanban together.

The guide identifies four Kanban practices that are particularly beneficial for Scrum teams:

  • Visualization of the workflow
  • Limiting WIP
  • Active management of work items in progress
  • Inspecting and adapting their definition of “Workflow”

Using the list above, let’s dispel three of the most common misconceptions about Kanban and learn why Scrum and Kanban are truly better together:

Misconception 1: Using Kanban Requires Establishing a New Process

Teams often feel that they have to “go Kanban.” They feel that they have to invent a new process just to get started. However, that’s not the case. Unlike Scrum, Kanban is not prescriptive about roles and events. With Kanban, you start with what you are already doing.

How does this apply if you’re using Scrum? You simply make your current workflow, part of which is Scrum, visible. Effective Scrum teams should already have visibility into what goes on inside sprints—but how do product backlog items get to the team? How does the Product Increment get from the team to Production? Using Kanban helps you visualize the workflow that happens outside of the Sprint boundaries.

Misconception 2: Kanban Means No Iterations

Kanban often gets conflated with a flow-based, iteration-less approach, so it’s not surprising that some people think it’s incompatible with a framework like Scrum. However, Kanban can easily help you monitor and manage the flow of work during sprints.

If your current workflow contains iterations, and you visualize it as part of embracing Kanban, the visualized workflow will also have iterations. If you’re using iterations now, don’t switch to a flow-based approach when you start to use Kanban—the two approaches work hand-in-hand to keep you focused on continuous improvement and delivering products.

Misconception 3: Scrum and Kanban are Mutually Exclusive Options

As agile coaches, it is common to engage with teams that wrestle with whether they should use Scrum or Kanban. Scrum is a lightweight, empirical framework for complex work, and it’s an entirely iterative process; Kanban is a strategy “for optimizing the flow of stakeholder value through a process that uses a visual, work-in-progress (WIP) limited pull system.” In other words, Kanban complements Scrum framework by visualizing the flow around the Sprint, limiting WIP to allow for better throughput, and switching the mindset to that of a pull system.

Similar to the first misconception, if you use Scrum, you would include activities about your Scrum workflow into your Kanban visualization. Unfortunately, many people still believe that this is an either-or choice, despite publications like the 2009 guide, “Kanban and Scrum – Making the Most of Both,” trying to put this myth to rest.

Hopefully you, too, find the Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams to be a useful tool along your agile journey. What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve seen from combining Kanban and Scrum?

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