Don’t say this too loudly around agile conferences, but when it comes to the day-to-day work, Scrum and Kanban are basically the same.
Now, as an attendee of these conferences and an enthusiastic participant in discussions on pull systems; time boxes; empirical process control; and little’s law, I admit that it’s satisfying to go deep into these issues. However, it’s important not to lose focus on your team, your customers, and your product. Whether you’re doing Scrum or Kanban, the day-to-day work is about a team of skilled and experienced professionals collaborating, solving problems, and trying to make a positive impact. Sometimes this goes well – people succeed in creating great things together; sometimes it doesn’t – bad products are built by a disinterested team, producing poor results.
We have problems. Switching to Scrum/Kanban is the solution!
Maybe your Scrum vs Kanban debate has been initiated by a problem being faced by the team:
- We keep getting requirements from the business at the last minute: sprints don’t work for us!
- User acceptance testing is difficult to organise: let’s switch to Scrum so we can have Sprint reviews!
- We keep complaining about things in retrospectives, but nothing ever changes: switching to Kanban means we can stop doing them!
In many cases, there might well be an argument for why Scrum or Kanban is a better fit for a particular team. There are no shortages of blogs, articles, books, and people that you can find to help you make this choice. However, before you get to that level of optimisation, get the team together and consider these questions:
- What’s our long-term business strategy?
- What is the purpose of our team and how do we fit in with the above?
- If we’re building a product, what is the vision?
- If we provide a service, what is the mission?
- Are we using a decent set of tools?
- Are there any big problems with our technology?
- Do the team enjoy working with one another?
- Do users enjoy working with our services?
- Do engineering and business teams enjoy a close, trusting relationship?
- Is our product meeting the product owner’s success criteria?
- Does the product owner actually know what success means?
- Did our last release go well?
- How do the board of directors feel about responding to change over following a plan?
Once you can answer all of these questions with a smile on your face, it becomes worthwhile to agonise over whether you should use a lightweight framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems; or a methodology that helps teams to evolve the most appropriate workflow for the type of work being carried out.