November 15, 2019

Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile - Know the Differences

The Detailed Comparison of Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile

It can be difficult for project managers to keep up with the ever-evolving methodologies that can benefit their teams. It is also tricky sometimes to know what the differences are between them, and what will work best for their colleagues and themselves. Whilst the ultimate aim of each of these methods is to aid and enhance the process of completing projects, it is important to recognize that each method is distinct in its own right. These distinctions, however minor they may seem, can have a huge ripple effect in how your team communicates and structures its work. So, what are the differences between Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile?


Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile
Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile

What is Kanban?

Kanban is translated from the Japanese term for ‘billboard’ and this namesake method allows teams to better visualize their workflow and processes. It’s all about efficiency. With a Kanban board, everyone can see what needs to be done, what is in progress and what has been completed. More categories can be added as needed, of course, but these three main workflows are what helps keep the team on track and in sync. 

One distinction of this methodology in the Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile pool of processes is the fact that Kanban demands a stern, precise hand for it to work. In order for the benefits of this method to be observed, there has to be a cut-off point for the number of cards in any one column. It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are, project managers cannot allow for new cards to be added when the limit is met – this is actually one of the strengths of Kanban because it allows teams to identify bottlenecks easily and swiftly. Without these limits, Kanban just becomes another complex version of agile methodology.

This also encourages leadership from the rest of the team – it can help to foster an environment where anyone at any level can quickly identify that there are issues present and take action, resulting in shared leadership. This method works best for projects that include a wide range of priorities that are less stable and prone to change. Critics would say that poorly structured Kanban frameworks can lead to poorer productivity – because Kanban doesn’t use sprints it isn’t necessarily the best way to increase speed. If what you’re looking for is a solid increase in productivity, however, then Kanban is the way to go.  

What is Scrum?

Scrum does use sprints, and this means that there is a pre-defined amount of time in which work needs to be completed. Scrum allows teams to make educated guesses about how long a piece of work will take and pushes them to try to meet this deadline. This means that project managers and teams will share a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how long it will take, which is great for planning and organizing. In fact, Scrum teams tend to be very much self-organizing and are able to decide the best way to accomplish any work task. Couple this with obligatory stand-ups and retrospectives daily, and there should be no reason why anyone in the team is disputing priorities or their position.  

One issue with the Scrum methodology is that when it comes to Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile, the very structure that makes Scrum such a solid choice can also ensure that it is difficult for teams to respond to changes from stakeholders quickly. Unlike Kanban, the ability to respond to multiple changes quickly is not a hallmark of Scrum. It can also make it difficult for team members to take on more responsibilities because the sprints aren’t inherently malleable. 

However, project managers shouldn’t dismiss Scrum because of this. One of the great things about this framework is that it is based on constant progression and learning, including learning how to deal with fluctuating problems and issues. Also, the structure of Scrum isn’t set in stone – it can and should be molded to fit the aims and goals of any organization.

What is Agile?


The last methodology to be compared in the Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile debate – some argue would argue that Agile is a frame of mind as opposed to a methodology. Agile is a process that encourages and enables teams to provide quick responses to feedback within their projects. Analysis and improvement do not come after the product is built, rather it is present throughout the entire process in Agile. Think of Agile as taking a number of small, quick steps, as opposed to one giant leap. Everything is fluid, including an Agile team’s responses to issues.

The product manager will typically take the lead on deciding what to prioritize, but the team will generally decide amongst themselves how this work will be completed. Agile teams agree on a pre-defined outcome, and then the ‘definition of done’ is used to decide what work is completed and what is yet to be finished. It’s snappy – team members can quickly inform others that something is done, allowing individuals to move on to other pieces of work right away. 

For product managers and other leaders, this can be a nerve-wracking process. Agile needs trust above all else – trust that everyone in the team will carry their weight and work will be done on time. It is nearly always the case that agile teams experience enhanced pride and ownership in their work specifically because of this trust and so do everything possible to exceed expectations.

Which method is right for you?


There truly is no superior method – each process has different pros and cons and can be best-suited depending on the needs of the organization. If your project is prone to rapid and unexpected changes then Kanban may be best for you. Scrum is great for progressive learning and provides a feeling of structure that Kanban doesn’t necessarily possess. Agile is precisely that – agile. Swift responses with the ability to close down finished jobs with ease and move on to the next one straight away. The most important thing when picking a methodology is to decide what your organization’s needs are and choose accordingly.


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