What is Scrumban & Why Should I Care?


What is Scrumban & Why Should I Care?

Ajay Reddy

A quick background

Respected “talking heads” in the software development community often seek to compare Scrum and Kanban. Unfortunately, most of these comparisons are based on an incomplete understanding of both frameworks, leaving those on the receiving end with the distinct impression that employing either method represents a binary selection.

In reality, Scrum and Kanban each serves very different purposes. Comparing the two is a bit like contrasting the acid in your stomach that digests food with the enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions (continuous improvement in the development world) and improve overall nutrition absorption for the body (improved service delivery). Let’s explore why.

Scrumban - it’s probably not what you think

If Scrum and Kanban are so different, what’s this thing called Scrumban? Some people claim it’s a methodology that combines some elements of Scrum with some elements of Kanban, resulting in a new, hybrid framework. These people are wrong.

Scrumban is a pragmatic application of the principles and practices of Kanban within an existing Scrum environment. It is not about using elements of both Scrum and Kanban to create a software development process. To truly appreciate what this means, it helps to quickly review what each framework brings to the table.

Now here’s a really important concept to grasp, and something to continually bear in mind as we progress through this journey. Even though two separate teams or organizations may both practice Scrum, adopting Scrumban in each will likely result in two very different environments. How can this be? Because Scrum becomes a shared, pragmatically dynamic, scientifically improving process when Kanban is applied to it. This is good & proper organizational variation!

Teams and organizations practicing Scrumban usually retain key Scrum artifacts and characteristics such as role definitions, time boxes, daily standups, rhythmic releases, retrospectives, and others. It’s how these things come to work together that typically ends up varying across adaptations.

This reality of contextual variation is what makes a tool like ScrumDo.com so powerful. We’ve taken a Scrum-specific platform and created the capability for it to adapt for the inherent variation Scrumban implies.

Scrumban is a catalyst for evolutionary change in an existing Scrum environment, amplifying and boosting Scrum’s payoffs of agility and continuous improvement.

Why does Scrumban matter?

Scrum is a great agile software development framework. And the Kanban method offers great tools to improve our management of knowledge work. When you layer these together, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. This is because their combined application:

  • more effectively manages the inherent variability of knowledge work like software development.
  • further improves upon predictability and sustainability (by better balancing real demands against real capabilities based on empiricism and historical data).
  • imposes no prescribed process destination (incremental evolution is encouraged over the life of the system based on the needs of the system, and not on some arbitrary measure of “maturity”).
  • provides more natural and contagious mechanisms for scaling improvements across an enterprise (effectively implementing Scrum across the enterprise often requires radical change driven by a top-down effort. Scrumban can germinate from anywhere within an organization and naturally spreads very quickly).
  • places a greater focus on waste elimination, and incorporates more product / organization management features into the mix such as risk, value & cost.

Over the next several days, we’ll publish additional articles speaking to each of these factors, and highlighting the reasons why your own organization may find Scrumban a welcome addition. In the meantime, if you’d like a really rockin’ Scrum management platform that’s also designed to seamlessly help Scrum teams adapt with Scrumban, take a test ride at www.scrumdo.com.


About the Author

Ajay Reddy

Ajay is the author or the Scrumban [R]Evolutions. He is the founder of Codegenesys and the co-founder of ScrumDo and GetScrumban. He is an accredited Kanban trainer and a Lean Agile enthusiast.


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