Kanban vs Scrum

Agile methodologies have revolutionised modern project management by emphasising flexibility, adaptability, and continuous improvement. Two of the most popular Agile methodologies are Scrum and Kanban. And while both share the core Agile values, they differ in their structure and approach to project management. 

The choice between Scrum and Kanban depends on your company’s specific project requirements, team dynamics, and organisational culture. Factors like the project scope, team size and experience, and the organisation’s culture are all essential deciders between going for Kanban or Scrum.

Kanban vs Scrum: The Best Agile Methodology

If you aren’t familiar with Agile methodologies, we’ll be going over the pros and cons of Kanban and Scrum using this criteria:

  • Structure: The overall framework and rules that define how the methodology is implemented.
  • Focus: The primary goal or objective of the methodology.
  • Roles: The predefined roles and responsibilities within the methodology.
  • Workflow: The structure and organisation of the project’s workflow.
  • Change management: How changes to the project are handled and incorporated.
  • Suitability: The types of projects and environments that are best suited for each methodology.

Let’s start by going over the basics of what Kanban and Scrum are all about.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a visual workflow management method that emphasises continuous flow by limiting or reducing work in progress (WIP). It originated in Japan in the 1940s and was developed by Taiichi Ohno for Toyota. 

Kanban is a flexible and adaptable methodology that can be applied to various projects. It is particularly well-suited for projects with ongoing or evolving requirements, where flexibility and adaptability are critical. It is also effective for managing maintenance tasks and continuous improvement initiatives.

Key Concepts of Kanban Board for Project Management

The key concepts that Kanban is most known for are: 

  • Visualise workflows: The Kanban method utilises a visual representation of the project’s workflow, to track the movement of tasks from start to finish. Kanban work typically consists of columns representing different workflow stages, such as To Do, Doing, and Done. Tasks are represented by cards that are moved through the columns as work progresses
  • Limit work in progress: Limiting work in progress (WIP) is a core principle of Kanban. By setting WIP limits for each workflow stage, teams can prevent bottlenecks and ensure that work flows smoothly. This helps to reduce cycle time and improve overall efficiency
  • Manage flow: Kanban emphasises continuous improvement of the workflow. Teams regularly review their processes and identify ways to eliminate bottlenecks and reduce cycle time. This iterative approach helps to optimise the workflow and deliver value more quickly
  • Make policies explicit: Kanban policies define the rules and guidelines for managing the workflow. These policies may include procedures for task prioritisation, workflow management, and change management. Explicit policies help to ensure consistency and clarity among team members.

Kanban is all about keeping the work flowing consistently. The methodology avoids waiting and delays as much as possible. By using Kanban boards to show tasks, the assignee of those tasks, and the task status, the company’s workflow is clear to everyone.

Benefits of Kanban 

Kanban offers several benefits for project management, including:

  • Enhanced workflow visibility: The visual nature of Kanban boards provides a clear overview of the project’s workflow, making it easy to identify potential bottlenecks and areas for improvement
  • Flexibility: Kanban is a flexible methodology that can be adapted to the specific needs of a project or team. It can be implemented with minimal overhead and does not require a rigid structure
  • Improved collaboration: Kanban promotes collaboration by encouraging team members to share information and work together to solve problems

Drawbacks of Kanban

While Kanban offers many benefits, it also has some potential drawbacks, including:

  • Complexity: Kanban can become complex, especially for large or complex projects. The most common problem for Kanban boards is when tasks are assigned to a lot of people at once
  • Lack of strict roles: Kanban does not prescribe rigid roles, which can lead to confusion and ambiguity
  • No time constraints: Kanban does not have built-in time constraints, making it difficult to plan and track project progress.

When to Use Kanban

Kanban is a good choice for projects with the following characteristics:

  • Continuous flow of work: Kanban is well-suited for projects with ongoing work flow, such as software development or maintenance.
  • Managing varying priorities: Kanban can effectively handle projects with changing priorities and requirements.
  • Adaptable environments: Kanban suits environments where flexibility and adaptability are essential.

In conclusion, Kanban is a powerful workflow management method that offers several benefits for project management. It is a flexible and adaptable methodology that can be applied to various projects.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a prominent framework in the project management industry, particularly for a software development team. Its essence lies in its iterative and incremental approach, fostering teamwork, self-organisation, and continuous feedback, paving the way for successful project execution.

Key Concepts of Scrum

The foundation of Scrum rests upon three fundamental pillars:

  • Transparency: Openness and clarity permeate all aspects of the Scrum process, ensuring that everyone involved possesses a clear understanding of the project’s progress, goals, and challenges.
  • Inspection: Regular checkpoints and reviews are embedded within Scrum, enabling the Scrum team to assess their progress, identify potential roadblocks, and make necessary adjustments to optimise performance.
  • Adaptation: Scrum embraces adaptability, allowing for adjustments to the project plan and approach as requirements evolve or unforeseen circumstances arise

The Scrum Roles

Scrum’s effectiveness hinges on the interplay of three distinct roles:

  1. Scrum Master: The Scrum Master is the facilitator, removing impediments to the team’s progress and ensuring adherence to Scrum principles.
  2. Product Owner: The Product Owner champions the project’s vision, prioritising the product backlog and ensuring that the team’s efforts align with the project’s objectives.
  3. Team Members: The self-organising and cross-functional Scrum team executes the work outlined in each sprint, bringing their diverse expertise to bear on the project’s success.

The Scrum Ceremonies: A Rhythm of Progress

Scrum’s effectiveness is orchestrated through a series of regular meetings known as ceremonies, each serving a specific purpose:

  • Sprint Planning: This kick-off meeting sets the stage for the upcoming sprint, where the team selects the work items from the product backlog that will be tackled during the sprint.
  • Daily Scrum: This daily huddle fosters alignment and accountability within the team, allowing members to share their progress, identify potential roadblocks, and make adaptations as needed.
  • Sprint Review: At the sprint’s conclusion, the team proudly showcases their accomplishments to stakeholders, gathering valuable feedback to inform future sprints.
  • Sprint Retrospective: This reflective meeting serves as a learning opportunity where the team examines the sprint’s successes and challenges, identifying areas for improvement in the upcoming sprint.

Benefits of Scrum

Scrum’s adoption offers a multitude of benefits:

  • Focused Effort: The sprint structure instils urgency and focus, encouraging the team to prioritise and deliver the most critical work.
  • Early Wins and Feedback: Scrum’s iterative nature allows for delivering working software in short cycles, providing stakeholders with early feedback and opportunities to course-correct.
  • Alignment and Clarity: Scrum’s emphasis on product backlogs and sprint goals ensures that everyone involved is on the same page, fostering a shared understanding of the project’s objectives.

Drawbacks of Scrum 

While Scrum offers compelling benefits, it is essential to consider its suitability for the project at hand:

  • Clear Project Goals: Scrum is well-suited for projects with clearly defined goals and objectives
  • Manageable Work Breakdown: The project should be broken down into smaller, manageable pieces of work, aligning with the sprint structure.
  • Self-Organising Team: The team should be capable of self-organisation and cross-functional collaboration.
  • Engaged Stakeholders: Stakeholders should be actively involved and willing to provide regular feedback.

Scrum is a robust project management framework for complex software development endeavours. Its emphasis on transparency, inspection, and adaptation fosters a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement, and focused execution, enabling teams to navigate the intricacies of complex projects and deliver successful outcomes.

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Key Differences Between Scrum and Kanban

Kanban is a tool for your company, and Scrum as a way of working. Kanban boards are tools, they only require a little effort to integrate into your workflow. Scrum, on the other hand, is a robust methodology that involves a lot of commitment to get it right. 

Here’s a quick table to show the differences between Scrum and Kanban:

FlexibilityHighly adaptable to changing requirementsStructured and less adaptable to mid-process changes
RolesNo predefined roles; team members self-organiseDefined roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers
WorkflowContinuous flow of work; tasks are pulled through the systemFixed-length sprints with defined start and end dates
Performance measurementLead and cycle timeVelocity (the average amount of work completed per sprint)
CommitmentLess demanding in terms of daily ceremonies and meetingsMore demanding, with daily scrums, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives

Scrum Board vs Kanban Boards

Scrum has its own Scrum board, but the format is usually divided into three columns: To Do, In Progress, and Done. On the other hand, Kanban boards are much more versatile, and the information in each card on the Kanban board is much more thorough. 

The difference between Kanban and Scrum is usually in ease of use and commitment. Kanban is much easier to integrate into your workflow, especially if you’re a small startup. However, if you’re ramping up production and output, Scrum is much more effective and will have more impact. 

Making the Right Choice for Your Team: Scrum vs Kanban

Ultimately, choosing the right project management methodology for your team will depend on several factors, including team size, project complexity, and stakeholder involvement. It’s crucial to evaluate whether the project requires adaptability and continuous flow (Kanban) or structured planning and predictability (Scrum).

Factors to Consider:

  1. Team Size: Kanban’s flexibility and lack of predefined roles can be advantageous for smaller teams. Scrum’s structured approach may better suit larger teams with more complex projects.
  2. Project Complexity: Kanban’s adaptability allows for continuous improvement and adjustments for projects with evolving requirements or ongoing work. Scrum’s routine sprints are better suited for projects with clear goals and deliverables.
  3. Stakeholder Involvement: If frequent stakeholder feedback and involvement are essential, Kanban’s continuous flow and flexibility can accommodate changes effectively. Scrum’s sprint-based approach may be more appropriate for projects with less frequent stakeholder involvement.

Assessing Project Needs:

  1. Adaptability: Kanban’s flexibility and continuous flow can ensure smooth transitions if the project requires frequent changes and ongoing adaptation.
  2. Structured Planning: If the project demands clear goals, routine planning, and predictability, Scrum’s sprint-based approach provides a defined framework for execution.

Considering Scrumban:

Scrumban, a hybrid methodology, combines Scrum’s structure with Kanban’s flexibility. It utilises Scrum’s sprint structure while incorporating Kanban’s visual workflow and WIP limits. Scrumban can be a practical choice for teams seeking a balance between structure and adaptability.

Overall, the decision between Kanban and Scrum should be based on a thorough assessment of the project’s specific needs and the team’s dynamics. Scrumban can serve as a valuable hybrid option when both structure and flexibility are essential.

Implementing the Chosen Methodology

Whether you choose Kanban or Scrum, implementing the methodology will still require a thorough introduction with your team. 

Thorough training is essential for teams to fully understand the chosen methodology—training on its principles, practices, and tools. Training sessions should be interactive and engaging, allowing for questions and discussions to clarify any doubts.

Set up the Kanban boards, physically or digitally, to visualise the project workflow. There are dozens of online workspaces for Kanban teams, like Trello, Asana, and ClickUp. Define the columns or stages representing the project’s progression, ensuring clarity and alignment among team members.

For Scrum, clearly define the roles of Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers. Outline their responsibilities and expectations to ensure effective collaboration and adherence to the Scrum framework. Ideally, your Scrum Master and Product Owner should get a Scrum certification.


Agile methodologies are not rigid frameworks but rather evolving processes that encourage continuous improvement and adaptation. As teams gain experience with the chosen methodology, they should embrace experimentation and refinement to optimise workflow, enhance collaboration, and deliver value effectively.

By carefully evaluating project needs, aligning the methodology with team dynamics, and fostering a culture of experimentation and adaptation, organisations can unlock the full potential of Agile methodologies, empowering teams to navigate the complexities of projects and achieve remarkable success.

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