First coined by Corey Ladas in 2009, Scrumban is a term that defines a system that incorporates Scrum-based frameworks with Kanban practices to help teams better organize and be more efficient. Ladas worked for 10 years at Microsoft, where he had the chance to develop and test the ideas that eventually would become the Scrumban - Essays on Kanban Systems for Lean Software Development book.
After facing limitations with Scrum, most teams that adopt a Scrumban approach tend to do so due to team scalability issues and poor usage of 'idle' resources. Scrumban can be a more flexible and robust solution with deeply customizable possibilities to fit many circumstances. Let's further explore it.
Topics to check
- What is Scrumban?
2-a. A pull system
2-b. Limits to Work In Progress (WIP)
- Stand-ups in Scrumban
1. What is Scrumban?
We could think of it as a hybrid system with a high accent on reducing waste to its minimum. As an Agile framework, it can be adapted into any industry, as raised by its creator, Corey Ladas, in this tweet published some time ago:
#Scrumban has only two practices: continuous improvement and process control. There is no fixed center. If you're doing it the way somebody else does it, you may have misunderstood the point.— Corey Ladas (@corey_ladas) June 5, 2018
As said before, this framework merges the structural and predictable routines of Scrum with Kanban's flexibility: It leverages the meeting structure and objectives from Scrum while being able to visualize the workflows on a board and keeping limits to the Work In Progress (WIP).
Do not forget these essential elements of Scrumban.
Now that we have checked the framework at a high level, it is time to dive a little deeper to learn what Scrumban is all about.
Anyone can figure it out just by reading the word: Scrumban fuses practices from Scrum and Kanban. But, which exactly? Consider that we do not aim to explain each framework for this article's purpose but rather highlight the elements carried over to Scrumban.
We will start talking specifically about the Kanban board, a cornerstone tool that lets anyone easily visualize all the items or User Stories in scope. A standard version regularly consists of three columns representing the To Do, In Progress, and Done working states.
For your board to be valuable and Agile compliant, you must include another 2 factors:
2-a. A Pull System
This means that you should focus on workflows so things get done when needed. It is similar to how a restaurant functions, in the sense that only after an order has been placed on the kitchen's board by the waiter is when the chefs will start cooking it. It then happens again: The cook puts the dish on a counter and bells the ring to indicate to the waiter that he can pick it up.
Theoretically, an operation like that should generate little to no waste because the customer request triggered every action.
2-b. Limits to Work In Progress (WIP)
Kanban is all about flow; the smoother, the better. You must restrict how much work your team can scoop during a specific period; call it a day or week. You do not want to overload them, and some tasks or sub-tasks may depend on others, potentially becoming blockers. Coming back to the restaurant: If your staff has only 2 chefs, they might not be able to work with more than 4 orders at a time. Giving them more could lead to dishes not being adequately prepared, delays, burnout, and even worse.
Check this model of a Scrumban board you could use to start your own. We suggest you use Jira to host yours.
For correctly spawning a Pull System, you must add to your board as many columns as needed. Think of all the phases and the teams involved in developing any feature before it goes into production. Then, add some 'buffer' columns that allow people to "place the order on the board" or "put the dish over the counter" so the next team can Pull it and work on them. Hence the name Pull System.
You can now put WIP limits on it. The specialist Michelle Galli suggests an interesting method to calculate the optimal limits to WIP for your project and put actual numbers to them. It is a 5 step method that might work for you. It requires identifying the Value-added and the Non-Value-added columns. In brief, Value-added columns represent phases where the item is processed, while Non-Value-added columns correspond to periods where the item sits still, waiting for someone to Pull it.
Be also aware that the Caution Line is a threshold in the To Do column to let you know when it is time to plan again. I.e., If you establish this limit as 3 Stories and at any moment, you only have 2, you should schedule a meeting to choose the work items for the next iteration(the Scrumban version of a sprint).
Maintaining the best flow of work is pointless unless the items selected for the board add value. That is why we need to incorporate the analytical and communicational parts of Scrum. Without going into much detail, you can expect Scrum ceremonies to be critical when trying to pull out a Scrumban system. All of these sessions should grant you concrete items to take action over there and keep a continuous improvement mindset.
There are 2 ceremonies that you should never skip: Stand-ups and Retrospectives. They help your team get together and understand how their collective work is flowing, especially for hybrid or remote teams that may have some issues getting together. One of the main points of this article is that we want to make sure you have some insights on how to keep harmony, even in that kind of environment.
Some while ago, we spoke with our fellow specialist and friend, Anatoly Spektor, about some differences between Scrum, Kanban and Scrumban. May his insights be useful for you.
4. Stand-ups in Scrumban
First things first: An optimal way to kick-off your Scrumban practices could be to start regularly checking your board with some Stand-ups. In this case, the classic 3 questions set of What did you do yesterday? / What are you working on today? / Are there any blockers? might not be appropriate, as anybody can look at the board and check the state of items.
The Kanban… We mean, the Scrumban version should be shaped by these 3 other questions, instead:
- What's impeding us?
- How is work flowing?
- What can we improve?
As you can see, instead of focusing on individuals, Scrumban supports checking how the working state of all phases relates. That is why, as Corey Ladas teaches us, you must customize this system to fit your needs. That is why you should throw any questions relevant to understand how to reduce delays in delivery and waste.
If you want to get a hand with your Stand-ups, you might want to take a look at Stand-Bot. Designed especially for collaborators working remotely, it runs asynchronous Stand-ups to automatically gather the data you need on working items to improve the flow of the project. It can even ask teammates in different time zones.
You should try Stand-Bot Premium more than ever, as there are some great features to come soon. One of them is the ability to customize the questions it asks your team, so you can get precisely the data you need. That is going to help you save time while keeping your Scrumban stand-ups relevant. And remember, it can import data from your Jira board: A match made in the clouds.
If you want to learn more about how to lead a hybrid or remote team, you could take a look at this article we published some weeks ago.
We will leave the information and cheesy jokes for now, as you have entered enough information into your brain. But we will dedicate a future article to explore Scrumban’s pros and cons, aside from some more ideas on how to practice it.
Scrumban merges the meeting structure and objectives from Scrum with the workflows visualization and limits to the Work In Progress (WIP) of Kanban.
The main difference between Scrumban and Scrum lies in how tasks are handed. Whereas in Scrum, tasks are bounded by deadlines, in Scrumban (and Kanban) they are pushed and pulled in an assembly line fashion.
The Scrumban framework usually requires a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and a Development team. You can always make some adjustments, thought, as Scrumban should be done in a way that fits your needs.
Are you adopting or looking to improve your Agile practices? Is your team remote? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should check out our products for distributed teams. We focus on making communication more effective and easier for remote teams.
Check out our tools:
- Retrospectives for Jira & Confluence
- Scrumpoker for Jira
- Scrumpoker for Confluence
- Freshdesk + Trello
- Freshservice + Trello
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