When first learning about Kanban, oftentimes the subject of Scrum comes up. Indeed, some people are proponents of using Scrum or like to mix the two in what’s become known as “Scrum-ban.”
Given that the two approaches to project management are complementary to each other but can also be integrated in part, it’s worth considering when you should use Kanban as a primary methodology on your projects over other potential choices.
Working from State to State
Kanban works in states, which are the stages set up for work projects.
A list of states might be, for instance, “Requested,” “Doing,” and “Done”. For more advanced work, there will be many states to further clarify the current position of work within complicated systems.
The goal when using Kanban and states is to avoid having an excessive number of pieces of work sitting in a given state and not progressing. To avoid this, Kanban uses “Work in Progress” Limits (WIPs) to prevent a state from getting overloaded. This is a core principle when using this methodology to avoid blockages.
No Sprints are Required
A sprint according to Scrum is a sustained period of deep work where participants create a project and use a block of time to work together towards competing that assignment.
The clearest example of this is perhaps in the software development world where sprints are used to iterate to the next version of an app or to fix a specific number of software bugs as “stories” with the intent to focus on them over a handful of weeks.
With Kanban, there’s a greater focus on the work in general, not necessarily accelerating one part of it. As such, people use it to see the whole board, rather than delving into a single project or complex task within it.
Managing a Company or Business
Kanban with its whole board approach can be used to manage a business. Certainly, it’s useful to create a Kanban system for different aspects of the business to make it more manageable. However, the idea is to keep everything within view to enable better decision-making and prioritization of projects and tasks within them to move the company forward.
Scrum is far better when used for departments or projects which benefit from an iterative, rather than single-use, approach to work. Because of this and the limited perspective, it’s best used to advance small projects rather than managing a company.
Maintaining Flow Through Kanban
When you learn more about Kanban, it becomes obvious that taking action on new pieces of work is a higher priority over other approaches. However, it’s also possible to view the projects and tasks as just part of the whole picture of the business. When doing so, being able to visualize tasks and dependencies for them is extremely useful.
Tools like Kanbanize are designed to provide a visual way to see all the boards and tasks along with relevant dependencies. Seeing what’s on each board allows managers and other staff to know how to proceed. Using other methods is slower, less flexible, and will hold someone back otherwise. This is particularly true when making regular additions, changes, or deletions to the boards.
Using visualization means it is possible to avoid micromanaging people all the time. Instead, looking at the flow being achieved as the individual tasks are worked on and subsequently completed, allows for tasks to flow properly from one board to the next without developing a bottleneck. The WIP limitation also prevents too many tasks from being started and any bottlenecking at various stages too.
Is There a Place to Integrate Both Kanban and Scrum?
Using visual boards, it’s possible to employ Kanban successfully for a series of tasks. Indeed, doing so over time can help guide a company to keep on top of what’s required to be gotten done.
Integrating the concept of projects, milestones, and iterative improvements using sprints borrows something from the Scrum playbook without losing the day-to-day management benefits of Kanban. Even companies that don’t develop software or regularly update products can still use sprints to push through small projects in a determined manner with their team.
Trying to manage separate, short-term projects using multiple participants is perhaps best served through the concept of the sprint. This is why it’s sometimes observed that Kanban users also incorporate other elements to serve their needs best.
Companies and their leaders should have an open view when it comes to what tools and systems are utilized. Not every system is beneficial to companies. It depends on their industry, existing processes, and ongoing requirements. After all, any project management system must work well for what’s required at that time, and in the months and years to come. Therefore, choosing the right system or combination is important to get the best out of them. Kanban, of course, can be adapted through the use of different boards to do just that.