November 2011 Scrum vs Kanban Turf War

November 24, 2011

I’m titling this blog November 2011 Scrum vs Kanban Turf War as I figure we are bound to see more skirmishes between Scrum and Kanban over the coming year. I believe that money is the motivation behind the latest wave of discourse between the Scrum evangelists and Kanban proponents, let me explain.

Two years ago we didn’t have the Lean-Kanban University. Two years ago most folks had not heard of Kanban, it was simply a niche group of early adopters that were iterating on their process trying to find something that gave them greater velocity through waste reduction while retaining high quality deliverables. The Kanban proponents, led by David Anderson, built up a body of knowledge over the past five years or so. This body of knowledge was captured in Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business.

Scrum, and organisations like Scrum Alliance, have had a ten year head start on a journey converting teams to agile methodologies. They have done an absolutely amazing job of educating development teams how to work more effectively and deliver software that customers want. There are thousands of Scrum teams around the world and Scrum is still the main approach new Agile teams adopt.

Why are members of the Scrum and Kanban community at loggerheads? Well simply put it is the pending arrival of initiatives such as the Lean-Kanban University and the Certified Kanban Master. The Scrum Alliance is concerned that they will lose their prominence in the market for training and consulting to a younger and nimbler upstart. How many times have we heard that story? How does it usually play out?

There are a few aspects of the article by Jim Coplien which demonstrate he does not have an accurate understanding of how “Kanban” the word has been adopted by the software development teams to mean more than simply “card” and what is found in the Toyota Production System. Kanban isn’t about time boxed work in sprints. There is nothing precluding you from pairing in a Kanban team. Kanban is being used successfully by product teams.

Based on recent research provided in a report by Evans Data there is plenty of room for growth of both of these organisations, and ample opportunity too. Teams should chose the approach that works best for them and continually improve that. This isn’t and “either or” discussion, you can take the best from both approaches!

What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

UPDATE: A pragmatic approach to Scrum vs Kanban can be found in Liz Keogh’s article Scrum and Kanban, both the same only different.

Nicholas Muldoon

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