Scrum vs. Kanban - "Kanban For The Win!"

Episode 16 - 16 Dec 2015

Team Scrum are in for a shock. How will they cope with the loss of their much-loved Project Manager / Scrum Master / All-round superstar?

And who is the mysterious "Agile One"?

Quick recap:

  • An Agile Team Split in two.
  • One stuck with Scrum.
  • The other changed to Kanban.
  • Team Kanban thought they were hot stuff... but their board told a different story.

Remember to grab your FREE Scrum vs Kanban Cheat Sheet

Previously on Development that Pays...

I joined a new team.

It was a team that “did Agile”. It was doing all the rituals. It had all the artefacts.

There was a reorganisation.

The Team Split in two.

One team stuck with Scrum…  (working in two week sprints)

One Team moved to Kanban (working in a continuous fashion)

Team Kanban thought they were the hot stuff…

… but its board told a different story.

Then one day, our Project Manager come Scrum Master come all round superstar, resigned.

Back to the story

Hi, this is Gary,

Welcome to development that pays.

And welcome back to the concluding part of our Trilogy.

If you missed Parts one and two and you'd like to catch up, there should be links in or around this video.

A New Hope

It was a dark time for Team Scrum.

We'd just lost our awesome project manager.

News came in that an external "Agile Coach" was going to be “parachuted in”. 

Someone looked him up online. 

  • Very high profile.

  • Very expensive, we guessed.

And very, very… KANBAN.

As I said back in Part I, people who “do Agile” often have strongly held views about how things should be done.

And our ongoing grudge match with Team Kanban had only served to entrench our view that Scrum was awesome and Kanban was rubbish.

So we were ready for him. We’d expected him to be pushy and directive. And we intended to push back. Hard.

As it turned out our new Coach - let’s call him The Agile One - was neither pushy nor directive. 

Lesson One

At our first meeting he said that he had a new (Agile) board that he’d like us to try.

But only if we wanted to to.

He unrolled the A2 paper that he’s brought with him. 

The key to it, he, explained, it that each column is just wide enough for a single post-it note. And high enough for just five. That's it.

“This is important. By limiting the number of cards in each column, we make sure that things get across the board as quickly as possible.”

A couple of team members raised concern whether a post it would stick long enough,… and whether it might be necessary to bring some BluTak into play. 

I smiled to myself. If our “resistance” centred around the relative adhesive properties of Postits and BluTak, The Agile One had already won.

And so our Kanban journey began.

The paper board - together with our winning combination of postits AND bluTak - taught us to to keep our work in progress under control.

We had learned our first lesson.

Lesson Two

At the time of his arrival, a number of cards on the board were blocked. 

The Agile One asked about one of them.

"We're waiting for so-and-s0 to get back to us” I said.

Superstar Agile Coach would say: “What can we do to move that along?”

I’d say: “ I’ll email him today”.


Where’s his office?

In the next building. 

"Let's go and talk to him."


"Right now”

And off we walked off together. 

And we found the person. And we had a relaxed conversation. The Agile One asked questions. And what was blocked became unblocked. Effortlessly.

None of us could match The Agile One’s ability to make problems disappear, but we did - in time - learn the value of talking to people face to face to get issues unblocked. And - in the case of new cards - to make sure that they didn’t get blocked in the first place. 

That was our second lesson.

Lesson Three

One morning, The Agile One brought a guest to stand-up. It transpired that The Agile One was moving on to bigger and better things. The new person was his replacement.

If The Agile One was a little bit Obi Wan Kenobi, the new guy was more Yoda: a little bit annoying, and very into "basic training”.

Where the teaching of The Agile One had been effortless, with the New Guy it was more the school of hard knocks. 

"Release more often, you must”. (He didn’t really talk like that.)

We explained that it was a painful process, very time consuming and prone to error.

The New Guy let us kknow that it was his belief that if you're not good at something, you should do it more often.

The last thing we wanted to hear. And the first thing we needed to know. 

We elevated packaging for release to an art form. 

Eventually, we were releasing more often that any other team in the company. AND doing so with the lowest failure rate in the company.

We had learned out third lesson well.


The Scrum Team that I joined in 2012 was the best performing team I’d ever worked in.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a 7 for performance.

On the same scale, other teams I’d worked with would score a 5 at most. 

When Team Scrum split into two and Team Kanban was born, the members of Team Kanban thought they’d moved ahead.

True, they were releasing more often. But their Work In Progress was out of control.

They score a 6.

Thanks to Obi Wan and Yoda, Team Scrum went from High Performing Scrum Team to VERY high performing Kanban Team. It was performing at level 8 within a month and at 9 within three.

I’ve yet to experience a 10.

This is the last Episode of Development that Pays for 2015. I'll be back with a brand new episode on Wednesday 6th January 2016.

Happy Holidays

May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas.

Talk to you in 2016