Improve Scrum efficiency by adopting Kanban principles

Scrum.org, the home of everything Scrum, from certifications to training and methodology practices, recently released an ebook aimed at Scrum teams that want to improve efficiency by applying Kanban in their Scrum processes.

About Kanban

One of Kanban’s main tenets is improved stakeholder value delivery by optimizing¬†flow: the movement of value throughout the development cycle. The core Kanban concept relies on visualizing work on a Kanban Board as it moves through the flow. By visualizing work, Kanban creates transparency for all stakeholders. Its main promise is that processes adopting Kanban practices should be more efficient, effective and predictable.

Kanban practices for Scrum teams

The Kanban guide identifies several practices that can help Scrum teams achieve optimal flow. We’ll summarize the list as follows:

  • Visualization of the workflow: Applying Kanban begins with mapping tasks on the so-called Kanban Board. This is a table that allows you to move work items as cards through several development stages. It provides all Scrum participants with an unambiguous representation of the status of each work item. This, in turn, improves communication by putting the focus on the items in progress.
  • Limiting “work in progress” work: Using Kanban, a hard limit on the number of items in progress will keep your team from losing focus. The trick is, of course, to -actually manage and apply this limit.
  • Active management of “work in progress” work items: This is a direct benefit of the first two points. The limited amount of work in progress immediately draws attention to the tasks at hand and allows for plenty of opportunities to act on roadblocks or issues hindering progress.
  • Inspecting and adapting workflow: adopting Kanban requires the Scrum team to think about the underlying processes used for moving work items throughout the development stages. Guidelines on what criteria need to be fulfilled to move between stages will have to be thought out, and ideally, documented for team members. Inspection and adaptation of the workflow, in general, is a healthy activity for the team to take part in on a regular basis.

Besides the tie-in of Kanban practices within the general Scrum framework, the document also discusses how you can measure the flow of your work items using several dimensions, and how Kanban impact Scrum events such as the sprint, sprint planning and daily scrums.

Not unfamiliar

Overall, while the concept of combining Kanban with agile development methodologies such as Scrum itself is something we’ve seen before – the Team Kanban used in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) comes to mind – the ebook by Scrum.org provides a good overview of how Kanban can help your Scrum team deliver value to end clients.

A brief but worthwhile read, the Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams can be downloaded from the Scrum.org website.