Saturday, 2 March 2013

Being Agile : Should I be in a Scrum or work on a Kanban?

After having worked in the Scrum philosophy for several projects, I recently got the opportunity to experience the Kanban way of being Agile. While there are several common between the two flavours of Agile, the overall focus of the two modes is what is the biggest differentiators. In Agile, the focus is on the quantity of work that is delivered while in Kanban, the focus is more on quality.Kanban limits the work in progress with a goal of reducing multi-tasking and maximising output. When working in a Kanban system, the term Flow of Value describes how current work can give maximum returns.Measuring the output of Kanban teams is done in terms of an established Cadence that recognises the ability of a team to deliver high quality work consistently.

The following table gives some comparison points between the Scrum and the Kanban philosophies.

Scrum Kanban
Focus is on quantity of work delivered in a sprint. Focus is on quality of work delivered in a phase or cycle.
There are no Iterations and the need for Estimations is not high.
New stories can be started while others are in progress. Emphasis is given on completing in-progress stories with a priority for fixing bugs that come up in existing  stories.
Team members have clearly defined roles,
such as Scum-Master, Product Owner.
No such roles are maintained.
Different meetings such as Pre-planning meetings and Retrospectives have significant bearing on the sprints Meetings are called as and when required.

After 6 months of employing the Kanban approach, there were some immediate gains visible. Since there were no sprint failures, the morale of the team got a boost which in turn led to greater productivity. Since the WIP limits were strictly adhered to, there was some buffer time which gave rise to the opportunity to focus on creating more unit tests, upgrading to recent versions of developer tools or helping reduce bottle necks in am existing Kanban. While the idea of downing tools and not starting anything new might sound incredulous to a lot of people, slide 9 in this presentation comparing Kanban to Scrum gives a good guide on managing idle team members. Obviously the Kanban approach requires more discipline and trust among team members but if applied in the correct way, can help achieve some immediate goals.

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