Sep 05

Combined forces

The Agile manifesto tells us to be, well, Agile. It is a good idea to focus on people, the product and cooperation. And don’t be afraid for change and even embrace it. Now I love to do just that. Changing things to see if it works. I use Scrum and I use Kanban. They both work, but both models also have their drawbacks. So why not use the best of both worlds.

I’m starting to incorporate a kanban flow within Scrum. Now there is nothing new in this. I have teams who have trouble to focus on what is on the busy part of the scrum board. They have to build, analyze, test and review. Why not put a WIP limit on these in most case the team is already doing a sort of kanban. You probably recognize this. There are work items on the board. Stickies on the left are the items they are working on. But sometimes in the middle of the busy board are items that are being tested. And sometimes I even see stickies on the right that need to be reviewed. And everything needs to be done but nothing really gets to done. In most cases because team members just can’t seem to focus. I know as a scrum master or coach you have to help them. Tell them to just focus on one item at the time. But nevertheless they have trouble in finding the right balance. So for this I use kanban. On the busy part of your scrum board you divide the different phases of the work in columns like analyze, development, test and review (this differs for every project so figure out what is needed). And then apply a WIP limit. Maybe the team divided by two and then some (you will also have to try to see what works best). Every column has it’s own WIP limit that may not be broken.

So if a team wants to pick up a new item, they first have to make sure that there is room to do so. They need to get things through the kanban. Empty the revue slot so they can move a test item. And make room for a new item. This way you get flow within your scrum.

This is not something that is new. I have talked to a lot of scrum experts and some say not to do this. The risk is that people won’t work together or that you’re not really doing scrum. But what is the problem. Scrum is not the goal, delivering valuable work is. So if this works why not use it. Kanban is a very nice way of working but it is originally designed to deliver using an ongoing and steady workflow. Scrum is designed to work in iterations so you can start very early in the process and improve. Combine the two and you get continues flow within your scrum sprints and focus on the work. Agile environments work best when people team up to get things done. They team up to optimize communication. So why not optimize the communication in itself. And as the scrum board is the information radiator of projects, why not optimize this one as well.  It helps to focus on the matters at hand and for gaining a good overview. Try it but please don’t call it scrumban or something like that. It doesn’t need it. Scrum and Kanban are two separate ways to handle work but they have their own dynamics. You can use them both but don’t make something new out of it. Combined forces don’t need to become a new one.

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