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Why Kanban is Used When Scrum Does Not Work For Teams

Kanban and Scrum are both widely used methodologies for managing software development projects; however, each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Scrum was developed for groups of people who work together on projects whose requirements are constantly shifting and who have to be able to adjust to these shifts quickly. Kanban, on the other hand, is ideally suited for use by groups that have a consistent flow of work and wish to improve the efficiency of their workflow. Switching to Kanban to see if it is a better fit for your team may be something to think about if they are finding that Scrum is not working well for them. However, prior to deciding to switch to another methodology, it is always a good idea to try to understand the reasons why Scrum is not working and make an effort to address those issues. Scrum is the most widely used agile development framework; however, if it is employed for the management of the work when it is not the most appropriate choice, it can lead to failure. Kanban should be used by application technical professionals whenever the prescriptiveness of Scrum limits the team’s ability to deliver business value.

Kanban Methodology: The Simplest Agile Framework

The Kanban framework is one of the tools that are included in the Agile methodology. An engineer by the name of Taiichi Ohno from Japan came up with the idea for it in the late 1940s. The Agile Kanban Framework places an emphasis on visualising the entirety of the project on boards in order to improve the transparency of the project and the level of collaboration that exists between members of the team. Kanban is one of the simplest frameworks that are used because it enables project managers to manage and keep track of their projects in an effective and efficient manner. The compatibility of the Kanban framework with an already established organisational structure is one of the characteristics that set it apart from other agile methodologies. Kanban, in contrast to other popular frameworks, advocates making only very minor but significant adjustments to an organization’s current configuration. This is something that more traditional organisations, which place a high value on hierarchy and the roles that functional managers play, find appealing.

What is Kanban Methodology?

The Kanban methodology is a form of agile project management that seeks to achieve continuous improvement, flexibility in task management, and improved workflow. Using this illustrative approach, the progression of the entire project can be easily understood at a glance, which is a huge time saver. Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing is a method that relies on the use of kanban cards to keep track of inventory at each stage of the distribution chain. The Kanban methodology, which is used in project management, adapts the same concept by ensuring that the amount of work that is required is the same as the amount of work that the team is capable of doing.

How does Kanban work?

The kanban board is the central component of the Kanban method. It is a tracking tool that can track the flow of their project by providing a visual representation of the entire project. A new member or an external entity can gain an understanding of what is happening right now, tasks that have been completed, and upcoming tasks through the utilisation of this graphical approach provided by Kanban boards.

Kanban board indicates

  • the activities that are being carried out at the moment
  • future tasks to complete
  • the tasks that have been finished

Tasks are gradually moved from the leftmost column (future tasks) to the rightmost column through connections between the divided columns (completed tasks). Utilizing the principle of Work in Progress, the Kanban system tracks the progress of each work cycle (WIP). WIP has predefined specific limits and a status. One of the guiding principles for the Agile Kanban methodology is limiting WIP in order to uphold uniform standards. The team’s completion of the current tasks in the designated order is crucial.


Scrum is the most well-known agile methodology, and it is known for its ability to facilitate the development of projects, products, or services in a straightforward and efficient manner. As a consequence of this, the model is able to boost productivity, maximise the efficiency of activities, as well as improve both the level of satisfaction experienced by customers and the cultural makeup of agile teams. Scrum teams keep their work in motion by completing a series of sprints, which typically last between one and four weeks each. More information about this essential framework, which helps to organise processes by removing bottlenecks and preventing future problems, will be presented in the following sections. This useful tool can be implemented in a variety of contexts in addition to software and information technology problems, as you will see in the following sections.

After all, what is Scrum?

An agile framework for the development, delivery, and support of complex products is what is known as Scrum. At first, the idea was to contribute to various projects involving the development of software. However, it has been used in a wide variety of innovative works and complex projects, and it is recommended for construction products with requirements that are prone to rapid change or that are highly novel. Members of a Scrum team tend to be people who are good at working together, collaborating across functional lines, and organising themselves independently. The primary indicator that an organisation is utilising Scrum is the presence of high-performing teams that work very collaboratively.

Scrum: How does it work?

Scrum recommends that each iteration, also known as a “Sprint,” begin with a short meeting for planning and end with a longer meeting to review the work that has been completed. In addition to these two gatherings, it is recommended that one more event, known as a retrospective, be held at the end of each Sprint. In this context, the development of a product using Scrum involves the establishment of cycles that are both short and cadenced (for example, weekly Sprints). In this way, the Scrum team is able to align their efforts, work together, and enable continuous improvement from Sprint to Sprint. Every working day at the same time, the team gets together for about fifteen minutes to have a meeting in order to inspect the progress of the planned work for the Sprint, to sync up on individual work, and to seek any help on removing blockers that are getting in the way of accomplishing the Sprint goal. The Daily Scrum is the name given to this event, which includes the daily meetings.

What are the similarities between kanban and scrum?

Although Kanban and scrum are two different methods, they are extremely similar in many respects. For instance, in order to better visualise backlog items and work that is currently being completed, both methods use boards and cards. Both recommend holding daily standup meetings to keep an eye on the flow of work and look for places where efficiencies can be gained. The following is a list that illustrates additional areas in which kanban and scrum are comparable:

  • Use WIP limits
  • prefer that the team bring work to the board
  • reliance on teams that can organise themselves
  • a focus on improving processes and transparency
  • Deliver working software as a top priority as soon as possible.
  • Break up large tasks into smaller components.
  • Based on empirical data, optimise

Kanban vs. Scrum: Key Differences

Kanban and Scrum are both examples of Agile frameworks; however, each methodology has its own set of core values and priorities. When the primary distinctions between these two approaches are understood, it is much simpler to evaluate the benefits of each strategy and to choose the one that is most likely to be successful for the company or organisation in question.

Scheduling Cadence

Kanban cadences are more concerned with maintaining a steady flow of work, in contrast to the speed-oriented Scrum cadences. Scrum sprints combine speed with efficiency because, at the conclusion of each iteration, valuable data is gathered that can be used to make subsequent sprints both more productive and more rapidly completed. It’s not that Kanban teams move at a slower pace; rather, their method enables members of the team to adapt to problems and shifts in the middle of the process as opposed to at the end.

Important Metrics

Metrics for both Kanban and Scrum are useful, but in different ways. Both help teams keep track of their progress relative to the aspects of agile development that each method prioritises.

Kanban Metrics

Since Kanban is predicated on an ongoing and never-ending flow, the potential for bottlenecks is an ongoing concern. As a result of this, the Work In Progress (WIP) limit is an essential metric that prevents an excessive amount of projects from remaining in the “in progress” column. By visualising the workflow and providing Kanban teams with the ability to keep track of each item, the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) is another tool that helps reduce bottleneck problems. Although Kanban does not place as much of an emphasis on speed as Scrum does, it is still an important factor. Lead time and cycle time are metrics that are important to Kanban teams because they have a direct impact on the total amount of time it takes to finish a project.

Scrum Metrics

The total number of story points that a team is able to complete in a given sprint is the metric that is used by Scrum teams to measure the outcomes of their work. By referring to story points rather than setting deadlines based on dates and times, teams are able to better ensure that they only commit to taking on as much product backlog during a sprint as they believe they can reasonably handle. A backlog of 50 points would be difficult to overcome for a team with a velocity of 35 points per game.

Philosophy Regarding Change

Kanban and Scrum are both Agile development methodologies, but they disagree fundamentally about how change should be managed. Users of the Scrum methodology take into account the requirement to make changes, but they do so only at the very end of a process. In the meantime, Kanban teams adjust their processes instantly and as required.

Popular Software Tools

Users of Kanban want software that gives them a bird’s-eye view of the entire process, from start to finish, including each step. Kanban functionality can be found in a significant number of today’s most popular project management tools. In addition to this, they will be looking for a product that helps them quickly identify issues, such as bottlenecks, and devise solutions to get around them. Some of the most well-liked Kanban-related software is listed below:

Not only do Scrum teams rely on programmes to assist with sprints, but software built on the Scrum framework typically includes other helpful tools as well, such as backlog management, time estimations, and Scrum boards. The following are some of the most well-known Scrum software services:

It is not a suprise that the Trello and Jira software packages developed by Atlassian are recommended to teams using both Kanban and Scrum. They each have the visual qualities and the ability to avoid bottlenecks that would appeal to Kanban teams, while also providing Scrum teams with a method to stay organised and break down tasks into more manageable, bite-sized chunks of work. This would be appealing to Kanban teams.

Kanban Board vs Scrum Board

When it comes to picking which board to use for the development of software, a Kanban board or a Scrum board, there are certain fundamental differences that are to be taken into consideration before making a final decision. These differences include: It may look, at first glance, as though both boards accomplish the same goal, which is to keep track of what activities need to be accomplished and who is working on them respectively. However, this is not the case. On the other hand, those who use Scrum will discover that the way they collaborate with their team is entirely unique in comparison to the way that those who use Kanban do it. Scrum boards are helpful in circumstances in which multiple project features will be worked on at the same time (especially if they span longer periods of time). According to the principles outlined in the Scrum theory, the most effective Scrum teams are those that have well-defined objectives in front of them, objectives that the team members are able to readily seize and pursue without being sidetracked by other activities taking place around them. In addition, managers are able to more easily gauge progress with the help of important metrics that are displayed on Scrum boards. These metrics include velocity, which measures the number of points that were completed during the most recent Sprint, and burndown/Sprint backlog, which displays the amount that has been added to task lists in comparison to the amount that still remains over the course of the time period. Kanban boards are most effective when used by single users or by small groups consisting of members of a team that only need to manage one or two straightforward projects at any given point in time. They are also quite useful when short development cycles are required beginning with the earlier stages and continuing on (such as when starting out with an idea). Because they allow for less planning in advance and rely more heavily on current status updates, Kanban boards are helpful for preventing procrastination. This is because they leave less room for planning ahead.

When to use Kanban?

When you want to add Agile values and practises without making a significant commitment to an entirely new system, the Kanban methodology is the best option for you to utilise. It provides more options for what each person can work on and when they can work on it. The flexible approach that is Kanban is based around a visual board that tracks work-in-progress (WIP), which limits the amount of work that can be actively worked on at any given time. This limits the amount of work that can be actively worked on to reduce distractions, increase focus, and prevent handoffs from happening too soon (which can cause delay).

When to use Scrum?

The Scrum Framework is a set of best practises that were designed to simplify the management of difficult or complicated projects. It places an emphasis on adaptability, collaboration, and the development of feedback loops. When compared to other methods of project management, the use of this framework results in a significant increase in the efficiency with which obstacles are overcome, problems are recognised, and solutions are developed. On the other hand, if you are not careful, these supposedly beneficial aspects of Scrum can actually be used against it. Scrum is frequently utilised in the development of software due to the nature of digital products, which are typically complex and require regular updates. The requirements for digital products are consistently evolving as a result of the addition of new features or the discovery and elimination of bugs. In order to satisfy customer demands for new features and bug fixes, the developers who are working on these projects need to be capable of working quickly while still producing high-quality work.        

Which One Is Best for You?

To determine which approach functions most effectively for your business, all you need to do is determine which one is more in line with the philosophy of your company and the strategy that it favours for tackling difficult projects. Scrum is most effective when:

  • concern for client feedback and desire to implement improvements
  • are concerned about dividing projects into multiple phases
  • prefer to make changes after finishing a sprint as opposed to changing in the moment
  • Want to substitute story points for deadlines based on dates and times
  • Want team members to have roles that are clearly defined and cross-functional abilities

Kanban, however, is better suited to your requirements if you:

  • To prevent snags and an excessive number of “in progress” projects
  • Find a technique that enables you to see everything through from start to finish.
  • Want to be able to quickly adapt to change and make necessary course corrections
  • are not keen on having purely defined team roles or cross-collaboration
  • Put feedback loops in place that promote long-term effectiveness and streamlining

You might be able to combine elements of each strategy. Kanban boards, for instance, might be used by a Scrum team. However, in the end, it comes down to beliefs and possibly testing which system best suits your unique needs.

FAQ about Kanban versus Scrum

Are Scrum and Kanban categorised as agile or lean?

The terms “agile work methods” and “lean principles” are now frequently used interchangeably with both techniques. It is necessary to have a background knowledge of the history of both kanban and scrum in order to realise the connection between agile and lean. Kanban, the more established of the two systems, originated in the late 1940s as a result of newly developing techniques for lean production. Scrum, a technique that was developed more recently, is closely tied to agile software development. It was in the late 1980s when it first gained popularity, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it was formally presented by software developers Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, who were also initial signers of the Agile Manifesto.

Can you use Scrum and Kanban simultaneously?

Purists would disagree. After all, the framework is informed by the unique rules that apply to each method. Particularly for Scrum, the rules, roles, and requirements for implementation are prescriptive. However, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely appropriate because every organisation is unique depending on its clients and its goods. For this reason, many teams looking for a hybrid strategy that blends the best of both approaches might decide to use so-called “scrumban.”

What is Scrumban?

The term “Scrumban” does not have a standardised definition or set of guidelines to follow. Instead, the term is used to describe the way in which an organisation may combine aspects of both methods in order to achieve the results that are most favourable to them, without adhering strictly to either approach in its purest form. The scrumban will be different for each of the teams. It is truly one of a kind and tailored to your specific requirements.

Is Kanban easier than scrum?

The term “ease” is subjective. Because it is so lightweight and has so few rules, Kanban may be easier to implement than other systems. But the fact that this is the case also means that it can be more difficult. People may be able to understand the process intuitively due to its simplicity; however, the absence of rules can make things challenging, particularly when trying to adopt a new way of working. The paradox of freedom is that it comes with the responsibility of making decisions, and vice versa. Teams that crave structure may benefit from the constraints that scrum imposes, making it easier for those teams to adopt.

When should you not use Kanban?

Because of the many potential drawbacks, Kanban might not be the best option. For instance, your product team may struggle to write tales of a constant length whereas your development team may be a shared resource. Because kanban has no set hierarchy, you need open, engaged teammates who are dedicated to the process at every level. Internal dynamics can also create tension because of this. Kanban is frequently abandoned by teams for the simple reason that there was insufficient time spent on strategic planning. Keep in mind that kanban is nothing more than a technique for completing work. It does not provide any direction regarding why you are working on something, what that something ought to do, or how that something ought to be implemented.

When should you not use Scrum?

Scrum is probably not the best option for you if the environment you work in is on the straightforward side. If your company and the thing you are creating are both complicated, scrum is a good choice for your team because it helps manage complexity. You should not use scrum if you anticipate that you will need to respond to changes more quickly than the time frame that a sprint provides allows for. In a manner analogous to that of kanban, the adoption of scrum may stall if teams are not given the authority to self-organize and self-manage or if individuals are unable to accept the outcomes of empirical feedback loops.


Matthews-El, T. (2022, March 25). Kanban Vs. Scrum: Which Is Right For You? Forbes Advisor. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/kanban-vs-scrum/

Singh, R. (2022, May 27). Kanban vs Scrum. Institute of Project Management. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.projectmanagement.ie/blog/kanban-vs-scrum/

Choose Kanban When Scrum Doesn’t Work. (n.d.). Gartner. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3986908

What is Kanban Methodology | Introduction to Kanban Framework. (2022, February 3). What Is Kanban Methodology | Introduction to Kanban Framework. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://kissflow.com/project/agile/kanban-methodology/

C. (2022, March 19). SCRUM: meaning, application, concepts and examples – Caroli.org. Caroli.org. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://caroli.org/en/scrum-meaning-application-concepts-and-examples/

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