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Agile methods allow a new approach in design and implementation of your projects. Today, there is a “tunnel effect” at each design phase. Until the project is handed over to the client, the development team follows its path in a linear way with little user or client interaction, at the risk of misunderstanding and disappointing results. This is what agile methods can allow you to change.
These methods have in common that they are based on visual tools (with the famous post-it boards), and enhance the transparency and collaboration of multidisciplinary teams. Remaining open to project changes is also a strong change of approach. The mindset of agile methods is that you can satisfy your customer’s demand through iterations.
There are three major agile methods, which may have common objectives and tools, but which differ in the methodology used. If we rank them in order of popularity we have the Scrum method, the Kanban and the synthesis of both: the Scrumban.
The Scrum method is the most famous among the agile methods. If there is a good chance that you have already heard about this mode of organization, it is because it is the most followed method of agility. Most novices start with the Scrum, which has the advantage of being reassuring with its highly structured organization.
Scrum is the most codified and ritualized approach. This method plans to assign a specific role to the “Scrummaster”. It’s a member of the team who is tasks to facilitate internal exchanges. He is responsible, among other things, for facilitating retrospective meetings aimed at advancing the team.
It is in the organization of actors and respect for time that the Scrum is highly standardized. You will need to pay particular attention to the meetings, which are in a way the support of the method. The progress of the project is punctuated by iterations of 1 to 3 weeks (sprint) which make it possible to carry out precisely defined tasks in advance. A stand up meeting is planned every day to make a quick collective meeting. Once a sprint has been completed, you focus on the next objective to be completed, in a time frame that is always strictly equivalent.
Among the three methods, only scrum can follow a rhythm of successive cycles. This is called “push flow” work. This system has the particularity of being much more efficient when the roadmap is clearly defined. Because distractions are kept to as little as possible, the team can devote themselves fully to doing the work.
The unwinding in successive small cycles allows to remain flexible and to be able to modify the course if necessary for the next sprint. However, there is no question of making any changes once the sprint has started. Using the Scrum method forces you to wait until the end of the loop to reorient yourself. Flexibility is therefore not possible at all times, but between two cycles it is strongly encouraged. The Scrum is therefore recommended, for example, if you have a well-defined program for your design, or if your client is very directive during the design of your project.
The very structured aspect of the method allows you to be framed to begin with, but the effect can also be that of a straightjacket that prevents you from moving at your own pace. This does not only depend on the character of each person, but also on the type of project you are working on.
Following a precise method makes it easy to adapt to this new organization of work, without you having to ask yourself too many questions about the means to be implemented throughout the project.
You lack rigor or struggle to fit your habits into the Scrum method and it is likely to fail. Don’t panic! The other methods are probably more suitable for you.
The Kanban is intended for those who are confident with the agile principles and want to try another method than the Scrum. To those who have understood the agile principles well and do not need/envious of all the ritual that goes around the Scrum, or to those whose projects are more adapted to this second method.
The term “kanban” means “label” in Japanese because the method originates from the Toyota manufacturer’s teams. “Label” refers to the use of Post-it in tables to materialize the progress of the project. The Kanban is less formal in the procedures to be followed than the Scrum. The use of this visual tool is one of the only things that will be imposed on you.
There are no specific protocols to follow, nor are there any fixed and themed appointments that set the pace for the development of your project. The kanban spares you all the somewhat ceremonial and dogmatic sides of the Scrum, it’s up to you to get organized! For example, you can hold daily stand up meetings if you feel it is necessary. With this method there are no formalized roles: it is up to your team to self-organize to promote exchanges and be effective.
The approach to work also differs from the previous method, because it is no longer a question of working sequentially with short cycles, but rather than working in continuous flow.
The traditional working method implicitly works in “waterfall”; i.e. tasks are pushed down from floor to floor. Each level receives the result of the previous step. On the contrary, with the Kanban you pull the tasks. To avoid suffering the result of the previous phase, you ask what you will need.
Using a Kanban board, tasks are presented and classified according to their status: “to do / doing / done” – a first column that shows the tasks to be performed, a second column on those in progress, and a last one that brings together the tasks performed. The objective is to prevent less efficient steps from slowing down the entire chain. It is necessary to try to fluidize all the steps to avoid traffic jams.
The rule of the kanban is to limit the number of tasks in progress according to the team’s capabilities. This results in the team focusing entirely on its tasks, which must be fully resolved before moving on to the next one. The Kanban has the advantage of allowing you to focus and unite the strengths of your team in solving the problems you encounter.
This method is even more flexible than the Scrum, it allows you to adapt to changes continuously. The progression is more fluid than with the sequencing produced by the repeating cycles of the Scrum.
The Kanban facilitates the adaptability and monitoring of projects that have a poorly defined roadmap. If you are conducting maintenance projects or continuous integration of modifications, the Kanban is certainly for you.
Using the Kanban method can be a barrier for your first steps in Agility because the methodology is not very formatted. All members must have understood the agile principles and act to promote exchanges and interactions.
To choose an agile method, you first need to look at the work and tasks you do. The Kanban is not suitable for all areas, each method has its own specificities. It is rather effective for support or maintenance work and projects that evolve rapidly.
So, what is Scrumban? As its name suggests, Scrumban is the synthesis of Scrum and Kanban. This method is less common than its two predecessors. However, it seeks to take the best out of each one, and there is no doubt that it will soon become more popular.
If you started with the Scrum and you liked the rigorous approach but the projects you are developing do not adapt to the cyclical approach, you must get into the Scrumban.
Similarly, if the projects you are leading are adapted to the continuous flow resolution of kanban, but you want an organizational framework for your team, Scrumban is for you.
The Scrumban inherited the codified approach of the Scrum. A very special attention paid to time with ritual meetings to punctuate the project and regularly the presence of the client. Also points to improve the methodology used. There are therefore very defined roles and times in this rigorous organization.
The working methodology of the Scrumban is inherited from the Kanban. The principle is always the same with the table “to do / doing / done” as the central support. There are the tasks to be performed, those that are in progress, and the last ones that are resolved. For a more efficient work, it is necessary to avoid being slowed down by stages that cause bottling. The trick of the kanban is to limit these tasks during execution (for example, two labels maximum in the “doing” column). The team is fully focused on these two tasks until they are resolved. You pull the tasks instead of pushing them to make the previous step meet your expectations.
As with the Kanban, maximum adaptability is emphasized over the Scrum method. In the Scrumban, you can make changes at any time immediately since there are no sprints to respect.
Scrumban and Kanban have the same approach, only the framework differs. By choosing between these two methods, you can choose the one that provides a setting and ceremony (the Scrumban), or the one that lets your team manage itself (Kanban).
This method is the result of the union of the two previous ones, with the objective of getting the best out of each one. If your team’s self-organization seems more interesting to you, go to the Kanban! And if you don’t think the pull-flow method is appropriate for your activity, but you like the distribution of roles and the organization of exchanges, go to the Scrum!
Scrum vs Kanban vs Scrumban: If you want to take your first steps in agile methods and find out where to start, you definitely need to look at the Scrum. It is with this one that most people start to learn to think agile and to immerse themselves in values. If the Scrum method is not suitable for you, give Kanban a try. This method offers an approach that is more adaptable to change and more flexible in terms of rituals. Scrumban is the synthesis of both, combining the rigor of the approach and the continuous flow of work, more appropriate if the changes in direction are many and varied.
In any case, it will be necessary to know how to choose the method best suited to the types of projects you are leading and the maturity of your team in collaboration.