Traditionally, Kanban is considered by most experts as a form of Agile. It denotes a distinct iterative framework that differs significantly from sequential project management techniques such as Waterfall. A similar framework is Lean which also grew from the same Toyota manufacturing units and practices. It involves parameters such as fast delivery, responsible decision-making, waste elimination, team empowerment and amplification of learning.
In terms of Agile techniques, the most common one is Scrum. It is based upon a work sprint that involves a small interval of time (mostly 2-4 weeks) within which the work is performed. It pays heed to the self-organization of the team and possesses information such as the process of team operations, work structure and associated rules and roles. In terms of comparison, one should notice that Kanban is less complex, more adaptable and is accompanied by only a few rules. The process is not time-boxed and can be adapted to any process or technique using WIP.
Deciding if Kanban Suits your Process #
The general rule for project managers looking to adopt new methods is to keep in view the type of change demanded by the organization. For instance, in terms of radical change, managers should resort to Scrum. Whereas; in the case of several ongoing processes, Kanban can be the right choice as it can be adopted without making drastic changes to the system.
The Coach of Agile Velocity, David Hawks, recommends looking up a few key parameters to decide whether Kanban is the right method for you. He further commented that Kanban is more appropriate for project teams that strive for continuous improvement. Moreover, teams with changing priorities and potential for breakdown into smaller sub-teams are also well-suited for Kanban. However, there are contrasting opinions in this regard. Anderson believes that according to multiple case studies, it is not necessary for the team and work to be broken down into smaller chunks for Kanban. Kanban can work pretty well with a wide range of teams, work urgency and complexity.
Meanwhile, Hawks believes that Kanban is most useful when the key focus is on customer needs and preferences. It can also be well suited for companies with a lower urge for change and betterment. Brumbaugh on the other hand proposed Kanban as an option for organizations that have difficulty figuring out Scrum. He narrated that Kanban is a great tool in order to build trust in an organization and it has the ability to set the tone for the understanding of sprint systems like Scrum. It can further be used in every vertical product development framework. Additionally, he cautioned that Kanban should not be preferred in organizations working on a partnership or in such settings where stakeholders cannot agree to a particular set of preferences.
Can’t decide between Kanban and Scrum? Choose Scrumban #
With the popularity of Kanban and its effective outcomes, multiple hybrids have been emerged from time to time. Particular Scrum teams that were inspired by Lean, as well as Kanban, devised ways of incorporating both thus, forming a hybrid commonly termed as Scrumbag. This hybrid aims to add the best of both techniques by adding visualization and WIP to Scrum. Scrum practitioner Savita Pahuja explains that Scrum should be used for event-driven work and maintenance projects.
How can Kanban be Implemented? #
In the case that you have decided to implement Kanban in your organization, the following elements are needed to move forward with it;
- Commitment from PM and project team
- Kanban training or a coach
- Physical or online board
- Buy-in from senior leadership
Lawrence Roybal, the Chief Executive of Oxford Solutions Group, recommends that Kanban teams should ideally not be more than nine people including consultants. Such arrangement ensures effective decision-making and group cohesion. He further commented that it is imperative for the project team to have the correct make-up of participants. Additionally, Roybal pointed out that one of the main mistakes in Kanban is that teams are reluctant to get early buy-in. Henceforth, it is necessary to hold project meetings before starting the project with Kanban. It will ensure that the right people are available for the right job.