Scrumban: Better than Scrum or Kanban?

June 13, 2014

scrum-kanban-scrumban-intland-software Scrumban: Better than Scrum or Kanban? agile Scumban = Prescriptive Qualities of Scum + Continuous improvement of Kanban.

Choosing between Scrum or Kanban is not an either / or question, there is a best of both option known as Scrumban.  So what features of Scrum and Kanban are kept in Scrumban and why? Individually Scrum is more productive, so why use any part of Kanban? The answer can be found in the details. Scrum is not always more productive than Kanban which is far more effective than Scrum but only for certain business models. It is good for specific business models where decisions must be made quickly without long deliberation.

Scrumban adds some of the flexibility of Kanban to Scrum, – which is a rigid prescriptive implementation, an earlier idea of what of Agile is. Some of the working rules in Scrum are optional in Scrumban.

  • First key question is why does the rigid structured nature of Scrum tend to lead to greater productivity, over and above the optional, more flexible approach of Kanban (in most cases)?
  • Secondly, is Scrumban a good compromise between Scrum productivity and process improvement of Kanban?

The answer to the first question lies within human nature and can be explained by the – Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT).

The theory is about the relationship between motivation and time. To fully understand the TMT theory an awareness of the other theories that the TMT rest upon is necessary. These theories include:

  • Expectancy Theory
  • Hyperbolic Discounting
  • Need theory
  • Cumulative Prospect Theory

In answering the question above, the main point to take away from these theories is that as a deadline approaches a level of urgency develops and results in an increased level of activity. Scrum takes advantage of this trait of human nature with iterations of short duration, which maintains an effective level of urgency and therefore motivation. The practice of time boxing and daily standups has a similar effect.

Scrumban exchanges the time limited iterations of Scrum for elements of the continuous flow of Kanban where workflow is defined and Kanban Workflow WIP states + Pull strategy are used. It also abandons the backlog, estimation and fixed deadlines. Unlike Scrum, Scrumban does not need to be cross functional, – it can be specialized.

In Scrum Impediments to action are dealt with immediately but in Scrumban they are avoided entirely.

The net effect is an Agile model that retains some of the strong communication and motivational elements of Scrum (Daily stand-ups + time boxing) but retains the continuous improvement qualities of Kanban. Scrumban begins with Scrum and ends with Kanban, where changes are acted upon immediately with Scrumban as opposed to Scrum where changes must wait until the next sprint.

One core question for business when choosing which Agile model to adapt, is what level of time urgency to apply to your teams for best effect, – considering the type of product under development. Consideration must be made as to whether product requirements are likely to change or not.

Secondly, when considering which Agile model to adapt, consider how quickly decisions need to be made. A fast changing environment would favor the Scrumban or Kanban option over Scrum alone.

Scrumban is not better than Scrum or Kanban but is rather a model better suited for specific business models than either Scrum or Kanban alone.

The benefits of Scrumban are dependent on the business model under consideration as well as the experience of the team in question. These benefits of Scrumban can broadly be defined as the following:

  • Good for changing requirements.
  • Good for established and new teams alike with Scrums strong communication focus retained with daily stand-ups and time boxing (optional).
  • Reduced time pressure, allowing for a greater independence of thought than when working with Scrum; this allows for a greater creativity in development. Less structured than Scrum. A result of discarding iterations and backlogs for Kanban continuous flow.
  • Scrum teams must be cross functional; in Scrumban teams can be specialized.
  • No estimation is required in Scrumban, – less micro-management and more Agile.

See how codeBeamer ALM software solution supports Scrum, Kanban and Scrumban implementations of Agile, as well as Waterfall and other hybrid models of development such as Agile-Waterfall.

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Eva Johnson

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Eva is an Economist (MSc) and also holds an MBA in Marketing Communications. She has over 10 years of experience in journalism, digital media communication and project management working with several multinational companies and governmental institutions. You will find her blogs posts on a variety of subjects from Agile-Waterfall Hybrid, Scrum to DevOps.

Eva Johnson has written 132 posts for Intland Software.

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