"Scrumban" - 5 Kanban Practices That Will Help Your Scrum Team

Annalena Simonis, Thursday 21 October 2021 | Reading time: 5 min.

Do you prefer to work with Kanban boards or with the agile Scrum method? But hear us out: Why not "Scrumban"? In this article we’ll show you how to combine the two most popular methods of agile management and bring more clarity to your sprint teams.

Does this seem familiar? A new sprint is coming up and with it thousands of pending tasks, an unclear allocation of tasks and confusing priorities? In this article we will show you how to bring order into this chaos. It is often assumed that there is THE ONE tool or method to tackle the complexity in a project. We’ll prove to you: The right mix makes the difference! Scrum and Kanban are among the most popular methods in agile management. Scrum as a framework for productive product development and Kanban as a useful tool for controlling processes and maintenance activities actually pursue two different goals. But one method does not exclude the other, on the contrary: Here’s how these 5 Kanban practices can improve your upcoming Scrum sprints.


1. Visualization

Today, Kanban has become widely established as a method for visualizing work or pending tasks. Whether virtually, with the help of appropriate software or physically, for example with post-it notes, Kanban boards create immediate transparency for all participants about the pending tasks. If you also use Kanban for your Scrum team, a division into a team board and a task board additionally brings more overview. In Scrum, the individual tasks are of interest to the team, but not to customers or the product owner. A separate team board, on the other hand, can be used to record the extent to which the customer benefit can be achieved through the team's work. An essential unit here is the PBI (Product Backlog Item). The development of the PBI flow can be transparently tracked on the higher-level team board, ensuring that the team is regularly aligned with customer benefits.


2. Reduce parallel work

A common mistake is to load the system with too many tasks at once, jeopardizing the productive workflow. Even though Scrum indirectly limits the amount of work to the number of stories a team can deliver during a Sprint, some teams tend to take on too much. One solution to avoid too much parallel work is to set an explicit limit for the "Work in Progress" column. This way, only a certain number of tasks can be worked on at a time and the task board is not flooded. As a result, responsibilities don't get mixed up, the focus is on completing the right tasks, and you get a healthier workflow during the sprint.


3. Control of the workflow

In addition to limiting the tasks that are currently being worked on, Kanban provides other mechanisms to improve the flow of work, such as visualizing blockers or using an "expedited swim lane" for urgent and unplanned tasks. By tracking such requests, patterns can be uncovered that allow the Scrum team to address issues more systematically.


4. Establish clear process rules

When a team wants to work together, it is important that everyone works on the same basis and adheres to the same rules. Therefore, establish certain process guidelines from the beginning and communicate them openly with your team. A written or formal agreement within the Scrum team governs how and when work items move on the Kanban board. For example, determine whether tasks on the board may only move in one direction or how unplanned tasks are handled.


5. Implement feedback loops.

As with any completed process, there is a need to reflect and monitor the completed work after it is done. Regular Kanban feedback loops provide information and context for planning daily tasks and evolving the product and process to meet market or customer needs. This feedback can be collected in the form of retrospectives or lessons-learned meetings. It is important to work collaboratively and experimentally to improve the process so that all team members can deliver an optimal work performance.


Summary and conclusion

Kanban and Scrum are complementary methods rather than competitors and can go "hand in hand" without any problems, because they both target the sustainable delivery of high quality products and services in the shortest possible time. Kanban, as a method to visualize and manage workflows can bring clarity and better collaboration within the sprint team.


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