Choosing a methodology to manage your projects is not necessarily obvious, as there are many options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Above all, it will depend on the nature of your project, your organisation, and the needs of your team.
Nowadays, the agile approach is very popular. Among the methods that adopt this mindset, you may have heard of the Scrum and Kanban methods, both of which allow you to efficiently manage all types of project. But which one should you choose for your project?
Scrum is one of the most widely used agile methods. In 1986 two Japanese academics, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, used rugby as a metaphor to describe a new method of product development. Ten years later, Ken Schwaber theorises the principles of Scrum as we know it today.
Scrum provides a framework for structuring the work of teams in short cycles (or iterations), called sprints, which last between one and four weeks. That way, the project can be improved as we progress. This method is based on three pillars:
- Transparency: all parties involved speak the same language in order to have a good understanding of the project.
- Inspection: regularly take stock of the project’s progress, along with the processes used to verify that it is advancing as planned and that nothing is hindering this.
- Adaptation: depending on the results of the inspection, the process is adjusted to improve it.
It’s a more flexible way of working that takes into account customer change requests. With Scrum, the product team learns and improves through iterations.
Kanban is a method of visual management which enables us to visualise the process of completing a task. It was designed in the 1950s by Japanese engineer Taiichi Ōno, the founder of Toyota’s production system. Kanban’s goal is to avoid holding inventory and producing waste to reduce costs, while ensuring the continuous improvement of the process.
The Kanban method works in drawn feeds, meaning it is the consumer’s need that triggers the production of goods. So, you produce on demand, limit inventory, and save money.
In Japanese, Kanban means “sign” or “label”. In industry, a kanban designs the form attached to the part container of an assembly line and monitors its progress. If the form returns to the beginning of the assembly line, it shows that it is necessary to produce the part, otherwise it means that the stocks are sufficient.
In project management, it is a form or a post-it-note which represents a task and we move in a chart according to its status: to do, in progress, to test or finished. The goal of the Kanban method is to limit the number of tasks in progress to improve the focus and performance of teams, the quality of deliverables, and thus deliver faster and more often.
There are several similarities between Scrum and Kanban as these two methods both follow agile principles.
Both are based on the continuous improvement of processes, which enables greater efficiency and provides better results.
Creation of Sub-tasks
Both Scrum and Kanban reduce the complexity of a project by breaking down complex and important tasks into sub-tasks that are easier to manage and execute.
Visual management is also a common point, with the use of a chart in which the tasks are materialized. This enables us to better visualise the progress of a project, identify possible blocking points and improve the fluidity of the processes.
These two methods are flexible and take into account any changes during the project.
Limitation of the number of tasks
Both Scrum and Kanban limit the number of tasks in progress, which helps to avoid multitasking and allows the team to better focus on the tasks to be completed. This allows the team to be more efficient and productive.
Although the fundamentals of these two methods are the same, there are also various ways in which they differ.
Roles and Responsibilities
Scrum defines three specific roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the development team. Every role has its own responsibilities. With Kanban, roles are not strictly defined, even if everyone is assigned responsibilities.
Scrum has a much faster pace than Kanban. Working in sprints, a short iteration which lasts an average of two weeks, the team works towards achieving a specific goal.
Kanban works in continuous flow, without iteration. The team provides deliverables as often as necessary.
With Scrum, a result (a product version, a software functionality, etc.) is generally expected at the end of each iteration.
With Kanban, goods are delivered as soon as they are ready.
Scrum is very structured and requires having four types of meeting during each iteration:
- sprint planning,
- daily scrum,
- sprint review,
- sprint retrospective.
With Kanban, no meeting is predefined, which does not prevent the team from meeting regularly.
With the Scrum method, no changes can be made during a sprint. Change requests are noted and integrated into the next sprint. Conversely, Kanban is more flexible, and changes are taken into account at any time.
Scrum and Kanban are two valuable tools which help you to effectively organise and manage your projects. You can decide to pilot your project by adopting one or the other of these methods, but it is quite possible to combine them as they are complementary to each other. Indeed, you can opt for Kanban with its chart and its limited number of tasks, while working on short iterations of the Scrum type. In short, it is up to you. However, remember that a Scrum implies perfectly mastering its principles, rules, and values, and applying them scrupulously.