Sometimes you just have to . . .

I was originally asked to help provide additional ideas to convince a Scrum Master that had recently joined a team due to a company rotation policy not to give up Scrum (full scenario). The change in team composition led to problems.  On the surface, the decision by the wayward Scrum Master to abandon Scrum in favor of Kanban is an emotional reaction and does not reflect many of the leadership problems the Scrum Master introduced. Assuming that the leadership problems have been sorted, it is time to contemplate how the team will work as they move forward.  The question was posed as use Scrum or use Kanban; however, there is a third (and possibly better) answer. Do both — Scrumban.

Scrumban is the synthesis of Scrum and Kanban ideas and ceremonies.  There are very few rules that say which attributes of each technique must be present to be one or the other.  Any combination of the two techniques can be called Scrumban. Which parts of each method that a team decides to leverage will be based on their need.  There are three basic reasons the Scrum Master AND team should consider availing themselves of Scrumban.

  1. Teams need both flow and cadence. Cadence provides the team with a rhythm to help continue moving forward at a predictable pace.  Scrum, with a fixed time box and repeating ceremonies, provides a beat. In a band, Scrum would either be the bass or the drums. Flow provides the organization with a constant stream of complete work to generate feedback and value.  Combining Scrum and kanban provides teams with the framework and policies to address flow and cadence.
  2. Visualize, visualize, visualize, and then sprint.  Scrum only tacitly suggests visualization of the team’s workflow.  Kanban on the other hand explicitly requires visualization of the work. Visualization introduces system thinking so that teams and individuals don’t view their work in a silo.  Scrumban pushes teams to recognize and visualize work a series of steps and to monitor how workflows through those steps.
  3. Something has to change.  In our example, once upon a time the team was effective and predictable, the now is different than it was. Every person on the team has a new set of experiences, and even if the business context has not changed changing the approach to controlling work is a means of acknowledging that something has changed. Adopting Scrumban allows the team to keep the ceremonies that are currently working (or can be salvaged), and then adopt the policies from kanban that will allow them to control the flow of work.  

When I asked Julia Wester, interviewed on SPaMCAST 532, Scrum or kanban she answered that thinking of the two approaches as either/or did a disservice to teams.  In her experience, each technique complements the other. Jon Stahl, President of LeanDog, states “Teams need cadence & work needs flow.”  Scrumban is my recommendation in most circumstances and even more so when a team needs the tools to help itself to be more effective and predictable. That recommendation only works if the team has solved its leadership issues.