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Scrum or Kanban: Which Framework Is Best?

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Scrum or Kanban: Which Framework Is Best?

Often times in the business world, we hear something referred to as a 'best practice.' But this phrase has its drawbacks, and can be contradictory to the goals of Agile.

· Agile Zone ·
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Most people would say they are offended by certain words and they are usually referring to the list of “dirty words” that society has deemed improper. However, my list of offensive words contains the word “best,” which may sound mundane, but it stems from the overused phrase “Best Practice” that I’ve been subjected to for decades. As a recovering Project Manager, I’ve heard the word “best” used more often than it’s deserved. So, when I’m asked, “What’s the best framework between Scrum and Kanban?” I reframe the question to “Which framework is more suitable for our team?” To answer that question, consider these 6 steps. 

1. Understand the Challenges the Team Faces and Their Goals

This is often overlooked completely. Kanban has become the new silver bullet to all our problems but some teams don’t take the time to articulate the problems and then confirm that switching to Kanban actually solved them. Challenges likely exist within and beyond the team and they should each be identified and understood so that the team can set goals around them.

2. Educate the Team on Each Framework

This doesn’t need to be an extensive training session. We just want to understand them enough to see the differences and advantages between them. If you have experts internally, have them present a short overview of each framework and share stories about teams that chose their framework and why. It’s important that the team members are part of this overview; don’t just have managers attend and make the decision.  

3. Allow the Team to Choose

Too often managers aren’t as connected to the work anymore to make a recommendation so they need input from the team. Educated team members will have a better discussion about each framework and how it would or would not work in their environment and work context. They tend to raise concerns more openly and have more confidence in their choice.

4. Provide Proper Training and Coaching 

Choosing a framework and implementing it are not the same. Ensure that each team member will be trained together and coached while they adopt new ways of working so they are set up for long-term success. Regardless of the framework, teams will need coaching well into the first 3 to 6 months. Remember, even Olympic gold medalists have coaches after they win their first gold.

5. Encourage the Team to Continuously Evaluate Their Progress 

Sometimes the choice in framework doesn’t work out. But, you won’t know if it’s working or not if you don’t have goals and measurements that show the difference the framework has made for the team. I’ve coached several teams over the years that started with Scrum, switched to Kanban and then went back to Scrum.  Each of them cited different, and sometimes legitimate, reasons for the changes, based on the desired outcomes.  

6. Confirm the Framework Is Serving Their Needs 

No matter the situation, each team should refer to the challenges and goals they identified in Step 1 so they can build their baseline and progress measurements. It’s great to have a team say they like the framework, work delivery is improving, and they feel more like a team, but without concrete data, we can’t prove it.

Why I Hate the Term, 'Best Pratice'

To say something is a “Best Practice” may sound like a great idea but it tends to lead to lazy adoptions without any regard to the unique people or work context. There is an implied “my way is better than your way” belief in this phrase and that “other ways have been tested and they failed but this one succeeded.” People stop thinking and experimenting once they are told to simply adopt the “Best Practices” that someone else has deemed “best.”  Let’s encourage thinking through education of “common practices” that we have tested and offer them as ideas and experiments for other teams.

Join us on Thursday, March 16, for an in-depth conversation around this topic.

scrum ,kanban ,agile

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