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Minibook: Scrum and Kanban: Making the Most of Both

by Ryan Slobojan on Jan 06, 2010 |

Scrum and Kanban are two flavours of Agile software development - two deceptively simple but surprisingly powerful approaches to software development. So how do they relate to each other? The new InfoQ minibook by Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin, Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both, clears up the fog so you can figure out how Kanban and Scrum might be useful in your environment.

The book is broken into two main parts. The first part explores the similarities and differences between Kanban and Scrum with a focus on understanding the capabilities of each rather than judging those capabilities - the concept behind this is that a tool itself is not good or bad, but the decisions made on how to use it can definitely be good or bad. The second part is a case study which illustrates how a Scrum-based development organization implemented Kanban in their operations and support teams. Consistent with the style of Scrum and XP from the Trenches, this book strikes a conversational tone and is bursting with practical examples and pictures.

As Mary Poppendieck, one of the authors of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit says in the foreword:

Henrik Kniberg is one of those rare people who can extract the essence of a complicated situation, sort out the core ideas from the incidental distractions, and provide a crystal clear explanation that is incredibly easy to understand. In this book, Henrik does a brilliant job of explaining the difference between Scrum and Kanban. He makes it clear that these are just tools, and what you really want to do is have a full toolkit, understand the strengths and limitations of each tool and how to use them all.

In this book you will learn what Kanban is all about, its strengths and limitations, and when to use it. You will also get a good lesson on how and when to improve upon Scrum, or any other tool you may happen to be using. Henrik makes it clear that the important thing is not the tool you start with, but the way you constantly improve your use of that tool and expand your toolset over time.

The second part of this book by Mattias Skarin makes the book even more effective by walking you through the application of Scrum and Kanban in a real life situation. Here you will see an example of how the tools were used both separately and in combination to improve a software development process. You will notice that there isn't a single "best" way to do things; you have to think for yourself and figure out - based on your situation - your next step toward better software development.

In his foreword, David Anderson, founder of the Agile Project Leadership Network, also adds:

We've learned a lot about Kanban in the past 5 years and we all continue to learn more every day. I've focused my own work on doing Kanban, writing about Kanban, speaking about Kanban and thinking about Kanban in order to better understand it and explain it to others. I've deliberately stepped back from comparing Kanban to existing Agile methods, though some effort was spent in 2008 explaining why Kanban deserved to be considered an Agile compatible approach.

I've left it to others with a wider experience to answer questions like "How does Kanban compare to Scrum?" I am so glad that Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin have emerged as leaders in this regard. You, the knowledge worker in the field, need information in order to make informed decisions and move forward with your work. Henrik and Mattias are serving your needs in a way that I never could. I am particularly impressed with Henrik's thoughtful approach to comparison and his factual and un-opinionated, balanced delivery. His cartoons and illustrations are particularly insightful and often save you reading many pages of text. Mattias' field case study is important because it demonstrates that Kanban is much more than theory and it shows you by example how it might be useful for you in your organization.

Discussion about this new book on Twitter have included:

  • @caffeinatedgeek: Really enjoyed free eBook on Scrum and Kanban, I'm a BIG fan of combining practices from different methods!
  • @ddoomen: An excellent comparison between Scrum and Kanban by the author who wrote "Scrum/XP from the Trenches"
  • @PascalMestdach: Just finished reading the minibook on Kanban and Scrum. A great way to start the new year :-)
  • @rjnienaber: "...the value of a tool is that it limits your options. A process tool that lets you do anything is not very useful."
  • @catherinelouis: Henrik rocks offering another free book. This one comparing Kanban & Scrum.
  • @danieltellez: Read the introduction... it is more than real !!! I want to read it right now !!! :D :D :D
  • @brunochassagne: Just finished reading "Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both" InfoQ minibook, by Kniberg and Skarin -- awesome work!
  • @blubberplinth: Finished reading Kniberg and Skarin's minibook on Kanban & Scrum. It's good and it's free :-)

As with all InfoQ minibooks, Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both is available as a free download from InfoQ.

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