Scrum, Lean, and Kanban: Is “Kanban” the “New Scrum” or the “New Lean”?

Scrum is being challenged by Kanban!

Scrum

Scrum is a simple “inspect and adapt” framework for confronting complex problems. Scrum involves:

  • Three Roles (Product Owner, Scrum Team with a define-detail & build & test perspectives, and Scrum Master)
  • Three Ceremonies (Sprint Planning Meeting, Daily Scrum Meetings, and Sprint Review and Retrospective Meeting)
  • Three Artifacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Burndown Chart)

At the core of Scrum is the concept of Collaboration, really from the Agile Paradigm. Collaboration is reified and embodied in Scrum primarily via the aspects of transparency (around the Burndown Chart), commitment (around the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog), and self-organizing & cross-functional Scrum Teams (around the Sprint Backlog). Because Scrum is a framework (with minimal prescription regarding practices), Scrum requires significant discipline around collaboration and leveraging proven practices to ultimately achieve results.

Lean

Lean is an optimization (efficiency and effectiveness) paradigm. With roots in manufacturing, its proliferation is due to the universality of its principles. Lean involves five aspects:

  • Specify Value
  • Identify/map the Value Stream (and eliminate waste)
  • Continuous Flow (Flow production vs. Mass Batch-and-Queue production)
  • Level Pull (Pull production vs. Push production)
  • Pursue Perfection (Continuous Improvement)

Likewise, at the core of Lean is the concept of Collaboration, really from the Agile Paradigm. Collaboration is reified and embodied in Lean primarily via the aspects of Continuous Flow and Level Pull. And likewise, because Lean is a paradigm, Lean requires significant discipline around collaboration and leveraging proven practices to ultimately achieve results.

Scrum and Lean

Scrum, as a framework, generally applies Lean, as a paradigm:

  • Value relates to the Product Owner and Product Backlog
  • Value Stream & Continuous Flow & Level Pull relate the Sprint Backlog & Three Ceremonies
  • Pursue Perfection relates the Scrum Master, Burdown Chart, and Sprint Review and Retrospective Meeting

Fundamentally, the concept of Collaboration (or in-process Collaboration) is closely associated with the aspects of transparancy, commitment, self-organizing & cross-functional Scrum Teams and Continuous Flow & Level Pull.

Lean Software Development (LSD)

Lean Software Development (LSD 1.0) has focused on identifying/mapping the software development process and eliminating waste along with value and continuous improvement. Arguably, one can claim that most adoptions of LSD 1.0 have only really focused on identifying/mapping the software development process and eliminating waste!

The Agile Software Development (ASD) Revolution

As the Agile Software Development (ASD) revolution (with Scrum, LSD 1.0, and Extreme Programming; First Generation Agile Methods) gained momentum, various foundational misconceptions formed and spread relative to Agility at large (not merely ASD), including:

As adoption increased, the ASD revolution began to experience challenges around Teams and the Enterprise. Many challenges emerged as mere symptoms, including difficulty around: defining value, self-organizing as cross-functional Scrum Teams, leveraging proven practices within the process, addressing organizational impediments/dysfunctions, etc. Thus, the value of Agility (per the ASD) began to be more and more scrutinized (due to its challenges and mixed results), and ultimately gave way to the Kanban revolution!

One of the root causes (if not the ultimate root cause) challenging organizations, teams, and individuals is Collaboration! Everyone claims to be doing it, but there is confusion around even what it is? Some confuse collaboration with with communication, some confuse collaboration with cooperation, and some confuse collaboration with coordination! Authentic Collaborationremains elusive for most organizations/enterprises!

Kanban Software Development (KSD)

Kanban Software Development (KSD 1.0, which (as a brand) has been known as Kanban) has focused on continuous flow and level pull along withvalue, process, and continuous improvement. Arguably, one can claim that most adoptions of KSD 1.0 have only really focused oncontinuous flow and level pull via Kanban systems! However, if KSD 1.0 authentically focuses on all the aspects of Lean, then Kanban Software Development (KSD 1.0) is authentically Lean Software Development (LSD 2.0).

A Kanban system is a “signaling device” or “specific tool for controlling and regulating” the conveyance (pull-flow) of “material and information” in a value stream (overall process); “a physical schedule tool that tightly links and synchronizes production activity between upstream and downstream processes [in-process activities/actions/steps]”; “combines control over movement of material with respect to both time and quantity [that is, limits work-in-process/progress] dependant upon signals from the downstream process [in-process activity/action/step]”. A Kanban is a “signal”. See “Lean Lexicon”, “Creating Continuous Flow”, and “Creating Level Pull” for more information.

Essentially, Kanban is a tool that mechanizes a process, fostering continuous flow and level pull; that is, Kanban is a tool that controls and regulates scheduling and synchronization for a process.

Without whatsoever discounting the many facets and benefits of continuous flow and level pull, KSD offers Scrum, LSD 1.0, and Extreme Programming many advantages, particularly around Collaboration.

As a tool, a Kanban system mechanizes and helps operationalize Collaboration (the ultimate root cause of many challenges for organizations, teams, and individuals) relative to integration and coordination.

However mechanized and operationlized, the root causes of why Collaboration is a challenge remain!

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