Kanban vs. Scrum: A Comprehensive Comparison for Agile Teams

Kanban vs. ScrumKanban vs. Scrum

In Agile project management, Kanban and Scrum are popular methodologies that help teams improve productivity, collaboration, and adaptability.

Kanban, a visual-oriented framework hailing from the Japanese manufacturing industry, has etched its mark in software development by focusing on workflow optimization and efficiency.

It champions a board and card system to visualize tasks and their progress, providing a snapshot of the project status at any given moment.

On the other side of the coin, Scrum leans towards an iterative, time-bound approach, segmenting work into 'sprints' to manage tasks efficiently.

In this article, we will journey deeper into these frameworks, exploring how their distinctive attributes play into the Kanban vs Scrum comparison and contribute to shaping the Agile software development domain.

Overview of Scrum and Kanban

What is Kanban?

Kanban is an Agile framework that emphasizes the work visualization, the limitation of work in progress (WIP), and the optimizing workflow within a system.

The Kanban system was initially developed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota (opens in a new tab) to improve manufacturing efficiency. It has since been adapted for various industries, including software development and project management.

A Kanban board is used for visualizing and managing work.

The board is divided into columns representing the different stages of a process.

Tasks are represented as cards that move from left to right across the board as they progress through each stage.

You can read all about Kanban here.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is another popular Agile framework focusing on iterative and incremental product development.

It's designed for small, cross-functional teams working on complex projects. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and continuous improvement through time-boxed Sprint events.

You can read all about Scrum here.

Principles of Scrum and Kanban

Principles of Kanban

Kanban is built upon the following core principles:

  1. Visualize the workflow
  2. Limit work in progress (WIP)
  3. Manage flow
  4. Make process policies explicit
  5. Implement feedback loops
  6. Improve collaboratively and evolve experimentally

Principles of Scrum

Scrum is based on the following key principles:

  1. Empirical process control
  2. Self-organization
  3. Collaboration
  4. Value-based prioritization
  5. Time-boxing
  6. Iterative development

Kanban vs. Scrum: Key Differences

While both Kanban and Scrum are Agile frameworks, they differ in several key aspects:

  1. Iterations and Sprints: Scrum uses time-boxed iterations called Sprints, typically lasting 2-4 weeks. Kanban doesn't use iterations and focuses on continuous flow.
  2. Roles: Scrum has defined roles, including the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team. Kanban doesn't prescribe specific roles.
  3. Work in Progress (WIP) Limits: Kanban enforces WIP limits to ensure a smooth workflow, while Scrum doesn't explicitly set WIP limits.
  4. Estimation and Planning: Scrum requires detailed estimation and planning before each Sprint. Kanban encourages continuous planning and doesn't require upfront estimation.
  5. Change Management: Kanban is more flexible in accommodating changes midstream, while Scrum discourages changes during a Sprint.
Iterations and SprintsTime-boxed iterations called Sprints, typically lasting 2-4 weeksNo iterations; focuses on continuous flow
RolesProduct Owner, Scrum Master, Development TeamNo specific roles prescribed
Work in Progress (WIP) LimitsNo explicit WIP limitsEnforces WIP limits for a smooth workflow
Estimation and PlanningDetailed estimation and planning before each SprintContinuous planning, no upfront estimation
Change ManagementDiscourages changes during a SprintFlexible in accommodating changes midstream

Table 1: Kanban vs. Scrum: Key Differences

Choosing Between Kanban and Scrum

Deciding between Kanban and Scrum depends on your team's needs, preferences, and the nature of your projects.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right framework:

  1. Project Complexity: Scrum may be more suitable for a complex project requiring meticulous planning and organization. Kanban is more appropriate for uncomplicated initiatives or when requirements are subject to frequent change.
  2. Team Size and Composition: Scrum works best with small, dedicated, and cross-functional teams. Kanban is more flexible and can be applied to teams of various sizes and diverse skill sets.
  3. Change Frequency: If your project involves frequent changes and requires adaptability, Kanban is a better choice. Scrum is more rigid during Sprints, making it less suitable for constantly changing projects.
  4. Timeline: Scrum's time-boxed approach may be more effective if you are working with a tighter deadline and need to deliver results quickly. Kanban's continuous flow model works well when there are no strict deadlines.

Personal Experiences

Scrum works well for teams that need a structured approach with clearly defined roles and time-boxed iterations.

It helps maintain focus and accountability, ensuring that progress is made at a steady pace.

Scrum has proven to be an effective method to manage the work and keep everyone aligned on a project that involves a complex software development process with multiple stakeholders.

On the other hand, Kanban has been more suitable for projects where flexibility is crucial, and priorities may change frequently.

I've used Kanban in a marketing team where tasks and priorities often shifted, and the continuous flow model allowed us to adapt quickly and efficiently.


The choice between Kanban and Scrum hinges on the unique requirements and dynamics of your team.

Both frameworks, with their distinct focus on visual workflow management and time-boxed iterations respectively, are powerful tools within the Agile toolbox.


The "Kanban vs Scrum" debate isn't about superiority, but more about adaptability and fit.

Kanban's strength lies in its ability to visualize and streamline workflows, making it particularly suitable for environments with continuous and unpredictable work.

Scrum, on the other hand, shines in scenarios where structure and defined iterations can boost productivity, with its time-boxed sprints offering a predictable rhythm for teams and stakeholders.

Remember, Agile is about flexibility, learning, and adapting.

So, feel free to experiment, learn from each, and customize your approach as per your project needs.

As you navigate through your Agile journey, embracing the core Agile values of collaboration, customer satisfaction, and openness to change will always remain essential, whether you opt for Kanban, Scrum, or any other Agile methodology.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) / People Also Ask (PAA)

Is it possible for Kanban and Scrum methodologies to be effectively integrated?

What are some reasons to choose Kanban over Scrum?

Under what circumstances would Kanban be a more suitable choice than Scrum?