Using both Kanban and Scrum

Last post 02:38 pm March 18, 2021
by Thomas Owens
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12:20 pm March 18, 2021

I've learned that when a team is using Kanban the team can still use the Sprint events (Daily Scrum, Scrum Review, Scrum Retrospective and Scrum Planning). In one of my teams we work with a Kanban board for quite some time now. We would like to start combining using a Kanban board with working in two-weekly Sprints. The reason for this is that by using Kanban without Sprints, we miss the sense of urgency: there is not as much pressure to actually finish work. Is there someone among you who has experience with this combination? Or is it not possible or wise at all?

12:29 pm March 18, 2021

Yes you can certainly use Scrum with Kanban.  In fact, the PSK1 certificate is based upon this process. 

The following page has links to the Scrum with Kanban guide as well as suggested reading for the exam: 

https://www.scrum.org/professional-scrum-with-kanban-certification

12:57 pm March 18, 2021

The reason for this is that by using Kanban without Sprints, we miss the sense of urgency: there is not as much pressure to actually finish work. 

Where is the pull for finished work actually coming from? Who wants value to be released early and often, and to inspect and adapt based on empirical observation?

Although a Kanban strategy can indeed be implemented using Scrum, the use of Sprints to establish a false sense of urgency would not prove rewarding for long. A quick sugar high is all you are likely to get.

02:38 pm March 18, 2021

It's definitely possible to use Kanban with Scrum. Scrum is a light enough framework, so the application of Kanban adds some additional metrics and ways to use those metrics to support the Scrum events. The Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams is a good starting point, and Daniel Vacanti's books Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability and When Will It Be Done add some good data.

Using a Kanban board to visualize the workflow (and perhaps limit work in progress) is only one piece of what Kanban is. Kanban involves measuring the amount of work in progress, throughput, work item aging, and cycle time to provide insight into the effectiveness of the workflow. These metrics can support the team as they meet the objectives of Sprint Planning, the Daily Scrum, and the Sprint Retrospective.

The idea that you're using Sprints to create a "sense of urgency" seems wrong. That's not the intention of the Sprint cadence. The timeboxed Sprint is one way to constrain a team to limit work in progress, although less strict than applying the Kanban tools. However, more importantly, it adds a sense of predictability. There is a minimum cadence of delivery of working product, a regular time for the team to synchronize with key stakeholders, and a guaranteed timebox for retrospection and process improvement. It's not about putting urgency or pressure on achieving work within a deadline, but to plan, reflect, and adapt on a regular schedule.