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Kanban vs Scrum Methodology: The Difference you Should Know

Man organizing his work on a board

Choosing which methodology is more useful to implement on your team can be as challenging as choosing which Star Wars movie is the best one. Kanban and Scrum have proven to be great frameworks for all kinds of teams (remote, non-remote, or hybrid) to work with if used the right way.  Both have different approaches to help teams organize and overall work in the same direction.  But which one is better? What are the advantages of Kanban, and what are the advantages of Scrum?  Let’s dive deep into analyzing the Kanban vs. Scrum methodology.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a workflow management method invented by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota looking for ways to improve Toyota’s manufacturing process. This methodology aims to visualize work and maximize its efficiency. Although it was first created for the manufacturing industry, nowadays, it’s used across different types of industries. Teams using this method focus on reducing the time it takes to make a project from start to finish. 

For those wondering, Kanban (Japanese word) means billboard or signboard. 

Kanban attains to the six principles below:

1.   Visualize the workflow

Observing the current workflow helps visualize how tasks are progressing or the roadblocks that need to be solved to move forward.

2.   Limit work in progress

This principle’s objective is for teams to complete their current work before moving to the next task.

3.   Manage flow

This principle defends the anti-micromanaging movement. Managing the workflow means managing the work but not the people. Teams should focus mainly on managing the work processes and finding ways to improve and make that work faster.

4.   Make process policies explicit

Every member of the team should be aware of what are the policies, rules, and guidelines. That way, misunderstandings and conflicts within the group are avoided, and teams cooperate because everyone knows what to do.

5.   Feedback loops

Feedback loops are an essential part of Kanban. They consist of short daily meetings in which members of the team tell others what they did the previous day and what their plans are for today. This way, team members are aware of what everyone is doing or if they need help with something.

6.   Improve collaboratively

One of the ultimate goals Kanban has it to help teams construct a fast and solid system to deliver projects. Teams that understand their goals, workflow, and processes are more likely to solve problems efficiently and work together to improve continually. It all relies on making stronger, faster, and united teams by changing their perception of working on a project collaboratively.

Implementing the Kanban Methodology 

Kanban’s aim to visualize projects takes place through a board. Kanban boards include cards, which are an essential component. Each Kanban card represents a single work item that moves through diverse stages of the project. Besides cards, the board also has columns, WIP (Work in Progress) limits, commitment point, and delivery point.

Kanban’s board might be either physical or virtual. Some onsite companies use whiteboards and put post-its on it. Other teams use different types of boards, but overall, they all look like this:

Example of a Kanban board

If you are wondering why to choose Kanban, it depends on how your team works. But overall, Kanban is an excellent methodology for remote teams. Although on remote means you can’t have a physical board, you can have a virtual one. With platforms such as Trello, you can adapt it to the Kanban model.  For example, we use a Trello board in our content marketing team that helps us organize and visualize our current tasks and the upcoming tasks better.

Kanban Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Focuses on continuous
delivery
Teams can overcomplicate the board
Increases productivity and efficiency Lack of time might be a problem (there are no timeframes in each phase) 
Reduces the time cycle of the processLack of documentation
Easy methodology to implementWhen team members don’t respect the WIP limits, they might work on too many things at once. 
Flexible methodology 
Improves the delivery flow

What is Scrum? 

Scrum is an Agile framework that has the purpose of helping teams develop and deliver complex products. It was first implemented in software development, but it has been used in other fields as well. The term Scrum comes from rugby, where a scrum consists of a formation of players. It emphasizes teamwork.

Scrum encourages teams to self-organize and collaborate while working on a project. And to continuously seek improvement by reflecting on their wins and losses. 

How Does Scrum Work?

The Scrum framework has a process with several elements that guide the team to complete their project. First, it’s important to understand that a team works in a series of iterations called sprints. A sprint is a time-boxed period in which a Scrum team works to complete determining work objectives. Each sprint (or iteration) consists of:

1)  Sprint planning

It’s a team meeting where all the members plan and decide what to complete in the sprint. The final objective of the sprint planning is for teams to answer: 

What work can be done in this sprint? How to execute the chosen work? 

Teams focus on these specific aspects for the sprints to be clear for each member of the team:

  • What: The owner of the product describes what the goal of the sprint is.
  • How: The team plans the work necessary to achieve the sprint goal.
  • Who: Sprint plannings involve both the product owner and the development team. The product owner defines the goal they seek, and the team deciphers if they can or can’t deliver that goal.
  • Inputs: Teams start analyzing the product backlog as this provides a list of things that could potentially be part of the current sprint.
  • Outputs: The team should describe at the end of the sprint planning meeting the goal of the sprint, and how they will start working towards that goal.

2)  Daily stand-ups

Like the feedback loops in Kanban, a daily stand-up means a short meeting where each member of the team shares:

1)  In what tasks they worked the day before

2)  What’s their plan for today

3)  If they are having any difficulty

The standup’s objective is for the team to sync and be aware of what each member is up to and to see a wider picture of how the sprint is evolving.

3)  Sprint demo

It consists of a sprint review where the finished product backlog items are shown. Each member of the team demonstrates with informal demos, the work they’ve done for the sprint. In this meeting, usually, members give feedback, ask questions, and make proposals to try new features.

4)  Sprint retrospective

A final review of what worked and what didn’t to improve the upcoming sprints.  The meeting aims for the team to reflect on the past sprint, identify the strengths and weaknesses, and clarify what aspects they should improve for the upcoming sprint. 

Roles in Scrum

Unlike Kanban, Scrum does differentiate roles during the sprint’s processes. There are three basic roles:

  • Product owner: Determines what needs to be done and sets priorities taking into account the product backlog and the customer’s behavior.
  • Scrum master: Controls the scrum process and the due dates. 
  • Scrum team: Several individuals working together and determining the best approaches to deliver and achieve the objectives placed during the sprint planning.

Scrum Pros and Cons

ProsCons
It’s collaborative It involves many meetings 
Makes large projects easier by dividing them into sprintsIf a member quits the team, it affects negatively in the development process
Continues feedback that helps improving future products It has no deadline which can lead to endlessly changing or adding features to products
By working on sprints, teams can catch mistakes before releaseIt’s a very strict methodology
Budget-friendly and get fast resultsIt’s mostly suitable for small teams
It’s easier for teams to make changes
How to build and manage remote teams

What is the Difference Between Scrum and Kanban

We’ve seen what each methodology is about, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they work on teams. Both are different methodologies that work effectively, depending on your team’s objectives. 

On the infographic below are the main differences that might help you decide why to choose one over the other:

Kanban vs Scrum main differences

Who Wins the Battle: Kanban or Scrum? 

When analyzing Scrum vs. Kanban, you’ll see there is no winner. Both methodologies can help teams to finish projects and reach the desired results successfully. It depends on how well the methods are implemented but mostly what your objectives are. Nowadays, some teams are even working with both methodologies calling it: Scrumban, a framework that combines the best features of both. We do recommend before deciding to analyze the projects you need to finish, as well as to know well how your team works. 

Also, if you work with remote teams, there are other things to take into consideration. For example, the tools you’ll need to make it happen. If you are struggling to manage your remote team, whether to the pandemic circumstances or because life is hard sometimes, we want to help you. Our VP of operations, Rustam Ahverdiev, is offering a free 45 min masterclass in which you could get a personalized remote work plan to lead your team successfully through these remote waters. 

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Gabriela Molina

Gabriela Molina

Gabriela Molina is the writer and editor of the DistantJob blog. As a former freelancer, she has covered a wide range of topics throughout her career. She is currently specializing in the areas of technology, leadership, and remote work.