You may have heard of the Ligers (male tiger and a female lion), Tigons (male lion and a female tiger), and Leopons (male jaguar and female lion) before. Maybe you prefer my favorite, the zeedonk, also known as the zebronky or zebrass, the progeny of a zebra and a donkey. These seemingly weird combinations are not limited to animals but models and concepts.
You Never Know What Can be Mixed
From a project perspective, we were what would amount to the scrum master at an automotive company. We used Scrum to engage and update one specific automotive project daily; it was part of many other projects. In contrast, the rest of the organization used a stage gate approach, so there was an agile delivery into a multi-year stage gate project.
We have also used Kanban processes for our scrum projects within Value Transformation LLC and even more. We have another cross for you; this time of work approaches, specifically, Scrum and Kanban, smashed together for project and workflow management. We do not want to make the possibility of success worse.
We have written several articles about Scrum and one comparison of Kanban and Scrum for our QUIGLEY & LAUCK'S EXPERT COLUMN at PMTips. We like to begin with definitions when we introduce words. In general, we are not so dogmatic; there are many ways to get the work done, and these options have benefits and downsides. We should think these through to find the best approach.
Kanban is a lean and flexible method for managing workflow and visualizing work processes. Originating from Japanese manufacturing practices, Kanban has been adapted for various industries, including software development, project management, and healthcare.
In Kanban, work items are represented as cards on a visual board, typically divided into columns representing different workflow stages. These cards move from one column to the next as work progresses, providing a precise and real-time visual representation of work in progress.
The primary goal of Kanban is to optimize the flow of work, minimize bottlenecks, and ensure that teams only take on new tasks when capacity allows. Unlike Scrum, Kanban does not prescribe fixed periods for work cycles, allowing for continuous and incremental improvement without the constraints of fixed sprints.
This flexibility makes Kanban particularly suited for environments where workloads vary and change frequently, enabling teams to respond quickly to shifting priorities and customer needs. We often see an analog to the Kanban board in Scrum, where the work products are tracked.
Figure 1. An example of a Kanban board showing a workflow.
Scrum is a popular and widely adopted agile project management and product development framework. It is characterized by its quick iterations and incremental approach, fostering collaboration, flexibility, and transparency within cross-functional teams. In Scrum, work is organized into short periods known as "sprints," typically lasting two to four weeks, during which teams focus on delivering a potentially shippable product increment.
Scrum emphasizes frequent communication and feedback among team members, stakeholders, and the product owner, ensuring the project stays aligned with evolving requirements and priorities. Daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and retrospectives are key Scrum ceremonies that enable teams to continuously inspect and adapt their work, making it a robust methodology for delivering high-quality products while fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
Figure 2. Our Scrum book from 2010.
They did the smash, they did the monster smash.
Agile methodologies have revolutionized the way teams approach project management and product development. Two of the most popular Agile frameworks, Scrum and Kanban, have been instrumental in helping organizations increase productivity, transparency, and adaptability. But what happens when you can't decide between Scrum and Kanban? Enter Scrumban, the hybrid methodology that combines the best of both worlds.
In this article, we'll explore the origins of Scrumban, its fundamental principles, and how it can help your team achieve new levels of efficiency and flexibility. Whether you're an Agile novice or an experienced practitioner, Scrumban might answer your project management prayers.
The Birth of Scrumban
Scrumban, a portmanteau of Scrum and Kanban, emerged as a response to the limitations and challenges teams face when adopting either Scrum or Kanban individually. With its structured sprints and strict roles, Scrum offers excellent predictability but might lack the flexibility needed in rapidly changing environments. On the other hand, Kanban's focus on continuous flow, traceability of work items, and flexibility can sometimes lead to a lack of planning and predictability.
The term "Scrumban" was coined by Corey Ladas in his 2008 book, "Scrumban: Essays on Kanban Systems for Lean Software Development." Ladas aimed to bridge the gap between Scrum and Kanban by combining Scrum's time-boxed iterations with Kanban's focus on flow and visualization.
The Core Principles of Scrumban
Time-Boxed Iterations: Like Scrum, Scrumban divides work into time-boxed iterations, often called "sprints." These iterations provide a structured cadence for planning and reviewing work.
Scrumban incorporates Kanban's emphasis on continuous flow. Unlike Scrum, where work items are fixed within a sprint, Scrumban allows for introducing new work at any time. This flexibility can be invaluable when responding to changing priorities or customer demands. Learning occurs while doing the work; we can assign specific work packages to particular individuals, developing their skill sets.
Figure 3. Our book on learning while doing the work
Work in Progress (WIP) Limits
Implementing WIP limits is a core Kanban concept. In Scrumban, WIP limits help teams maintain a manageable workload, reducing the risk of overcommitting and improving overall efficiency. From experience, a significant source of project failure is a lack of prioritization of what is essential. We risk the whole project for feature increments that do not matter to the customer. Limiting the amount of work is a form of focus.
Kanban boards are a central feature of Scrumban, visually representing work items and their progress. This transparency enhances communication and fosters collaboration within the team (see Figure 1).
Both Scrum and Kanban promote a culture of continuous improvement. Scrumban encourages teams to regularly review their processes and make adjustments to optimize workflow and delivery.
Implementing Scrumban in Your Team
Transitioning to Scrumban involves a few key steps:
Assess Your Current Process
Evaluate your team's existing Agile practices. Is the workflow understood and managed through other mechanisms? If not, the addition of Kanban may be appropriate. Identify pain points and areas for improvement.
Identify ideal workflow (customize)
Tailor your workflow to suit your team's specific needs. Define your time-boxed iterations, WIP limits, and the WIP flow categories for your Kanban board. Example:
Training and Education
Ensure that your team members understand the principles of Scrumban and how to use the Kanban board effectively. Training may be necessary to bridge any knowledge gaps. Rotate who leads the retrospective. Assign work products to team members less skilled through partnership with those more experienced in the work product or approach.
Regularly review and adjust your processes based on feedback and data. Scrumban's adaptability is one of its most significant strengths, so don't hesitate to change as needed. Changes to how we work need not be at the end of the sprint. Anytime we can incrementally improve, we should take that opportunity.
The Benefits of Scrumban
Scrumban offers a range of advantages for Agile teams:
Teams can adapt to changing priorities without disrupting the entire sprint, making it ideal for environments with evolving requirements. Even during the spring, we can change how we approach the work as we learn what does not work. For example, we desire a specific work product's accomplishment rate, and it is clear that the rate is not being achieved. We can either find another way to achieve that rate or remove some of the work from the WIP to ensure something of value is delivered.
Time-boxed iterations provide predictability and structure similar to Scrum, helping teams plan their work more effectively. We track the amount of work going into the sprint that is accomplished during the sprints, and this provides us with a range of work products we can deliver over time.
WIP limits and visual management help teams identify bottlenecks and reduce lead times, improving efficiency. Team building and sharing opportunities arise from viewing the state and stages of the workflow.
The emphasis on retrospectives and process refinement encourages a culture of continuous improvement and learning. The retrospective happens at the end of every spring. Ideally, the Kanban board can provide valuable clues to what can be improved and devise approaches. We can use tools such as Total Quality Management to help understand our work performance.
If animals can combine to make interesting new species, we should eliminate what looks like a hyper-dogmatic approach to the work. If a work management or project management methodology can help, we must explore these alternatives.
Scrumban represents a balanced approach to Agile project management, combining the best elements of Scrum and Kanban. By embracing time-boxed iterations, continuous flow, and visual management, teams can enjoy the benefits of both methodologies while minimizing their limitations.
If you're looking to strike the perfect balance between structure and flexibility in your Agile workflow, Scrumban may be the solution you've been searching for. Explore this hybrid approach, experiment with its principles, and watch your team's productivity soar in today's fast-paced business landscape.