Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Scrumban

· 4 min read
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Scrumban

Finding the right balance between structure and flexibility is vital for agile software teams. Scrumban comes in to blend the best of both worlds — keeping Scrum’s focus and adding Kanban’s adaptability.

The Rigidness of Scrum

Many dev teams dive into Scrum, looking for structure and alignment, which are so much needed in software development. The ceremonies feel productive and purposeful, at least for a while. But soon enough, the fixed sprints become a painful experience, like wearing tight shoes. The team’s toes hurt, begging for wiggle room.

Compared to Scrum, Kanban’s flow-based approach sounds like a breath of fresh air. No more repetitive songs and dances. Swim lanes clearly show workflow blockers and work-in-progress limits boost focus.

But full-on switching to Kanban often makes teams feel directionless because, in the end, it’s just a visualization of work, not a process. Without regular tune-ups, progress stalls out. A lack of structure makes work much harder, especially in bigger teams. Sprint deadlines no longer mean anything. And then you realize that some structure is actually helpful.

Scrumban blends Scrum and Kanban. It aims to keep the best of Scrum, like sprints and retros, and layers on Kanban practices, like work limits and flow.

Regular team syncs keep your Scrumban process going. Retro reviews surface weak spots. Cycle time metrics reveal where the team is just treading water. Incremental changes ensure you stay lean, aligned, and shipping.

The Structure of Scrum

Scrum lends much-needed structure for teams just starting their agile journey. The defined roles, rituals, and artifacts bring order to the chaos.

The Product Owner role focuses on maximizing value from the customer’s POV. This keeps the team aligned on what matters most to users.

The rapid, time-boxed sprints create a regular rhythm for shipping the working code. Sprint goals motivate the team. Reviews give stakeholders visibility into the latest updates.

The Sprint Retro examines what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve. Making tune-ups part of the process is working really well in most cases.

Standups align everyone on goals and roadblocks, as people need to sync up and communicate,

Backlogs provide transparency into what’s coming down new and what’s actively cooking.

For many teams, these elements help maintain focus, alignment, and visibility. But over time, some want more room within the framework, which classic Scrum does not allow.

Moving from daily standups to weekly, working on complex features that span multiple sprints, skipping the story point estimation practice, allowing changing priorities during the sprint — the list of things a given team finds limiting in Scrum goes on and on.

The Flexibility of Kanban

While Scrum lends helpful structure, its rigid sprint cadence is one of the most significant limiting factors in real life when priorities shift often. Kanban gives more flexibility.

Mapping all work items on a Kanban board exposes bottlenecks Scrum often obscures. This gives teams an eagle-eye view of the workflow.

Capping work-in-progress minimizes task switching so teammates can focus on finishing started work before taking on more so things don’t get out of hand. This smooths out flow.

Kanban also trims planning overhead by axing long sprint planning sessions in favor of continuous backlog prioritization. This adaptability allows teams to roll with requirement changes.

Tracking cycle time from work start to finish provides data to optimize processes.

In short, Kanban visualizes workloads, limits work-in-progress, and drives data-backed improvements. These superpowers offer the much neede flexibility for teams who find Scrum restraining.

Finding the Right Balance

Finding the right combination between structure and flexibility is Scrumban’s sweet spot. It lets teams remix Scrum and Kanban to suit their needs.

Many teams like Scrum’s ceremonies for alignment, visibility, and continuous improvement. Sprints create focus and accountability. Standups sync people up. Retros optimize processes.

Kanban’s work visualization unearths helpful insights into workflow. Capping work-in-progress boosts focus on finishing started work.

The hybrid framework provides a structure for focus while maintaining the agility to roll with changes and surprises.

You can start with Scrum’s foundation and then remove some of the initial constraints and overlay Kanban practices like work limits and continuous delivery.

Continuous Improvement

One handy concept that Scrumban keeps from Scrum is regular retrospectives. These sprint tune-up sessions give teams time to inspect and adapt their process.

During retros, the team reflects on what worked in the sprint, what didn’t, and the concrete actions they’ll try next time. This is a great time to fine-tune the balance between rigidness and flexibility that are unique for your team.

Along with retro lessons, Scrumban teams can track metrics like cycle time and throughput to drive continuous improvement as a replacement to story point estimation and tracking team velocity.

When cycle time increases, you can dig into root causes during retros. Are there specific steps slowing things down? Retros enable brainstorming fixes for the blockers.

If throughput drops, the team can investigate why. Are some people overloaded? Is the work-in-progress limit too high? Are people scattered instead of focused on finishing current priorities? Retros provide a place to discuss these issues.

By routinely reviewing retro insights and metrics, Scrumban teams can incrementally improve sprint after sprint. Continuous improvement is baked into its DNA.

The key takeaway I want you to walk away with is that Scrumban aims to give teams the “best of both worlds” blend of Scrum and Kanban. I’ve been in that tricky spot where pure Scrum feels too constraining, yet pure Kanban seems too free-flowing. Scrumban is just right in that situation.

It provides enough structure for alignment but enough flexibility to adapt. You get helpful Scrum elements like sprints and retros to create cadence while also layering in Kanban practices like flow visualization and work-in-progress limits to smooth workflow.

Originally published on Medium.com