Scrum Vs Kanban: The Basics You Need to Know

Teams across industries strive for methods that enhance productivity, flexibility, and efficiency in project management. Agile methodologies have emerged as beacons of adaptability in this quest, with Kanban vs Scrum leading the charge. Both frameworks share a common Agile ancestry, emphasizing incremental work, team collaboration, and customer satisfaction. However, their approaches to achieving these goals differ and are tailored to suit unique project requirements and team dynamics. 

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What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a structured approach to support teams in collaboratively creating, delivering, and maintaining complex products. It outlines specific roles, events, and deliverables to promote teamwork. This framework fosters a learning environment where teams can self-manage during problem-solving and reflect on their successes and failures, aiming for ongoing enhancement. Originating from the Agile Manifesto, Scrum embodies the principles of agility - customer-centricity, adaptability, and iterative progress.

How Does Scrum Work?


Scrum Framework

Scrum breaks down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks completed in short cycles known as Sprints, typically lasting 2-4 weeks. Each Sprint aims to produce a potentially shippable product increment, allowing teams to adjust to changes and stakeholder feedback rapidly.

The Scrum process begins with the Product Owner creating a Product Backlog, a prioritized list of project requirements with descriptions of the desired work. During Sprint Planning, the team selects items from the Product Backlog they can commit to completing by the end of the Sprint, forming the Sprint Backlog.

Daily Stand-Up meetings facilitate team communication, allowing members to discuss progress, plans for the day, and any impediments. The Scrum Master addresses these impediments and ensures the team adheres to Scrum practices.

At the end of the Sprint, the team conducts a Sprint Review with stakeholders to demonstrate the work done, and a Sprint Retrospective allows the team to reflect and improve their process for the next Sprint.

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Key Elements of Scrum


  • Scrum Master: Ensures the team follows Scrum principles and practices, facilitates meetings, and removes obstacles.
  • Product Owner: Organizes the Product Backlog and ensures the team works on tasks that deliver the most value to the business.
  • Development Team: A self-organizing, cross-functional team that designs, develops, and tests product increments.


  • The Product Backlog is a prioritized inventory encompassing all requirements for the product.
  • The Sprint Backlog consists of items chosen from the Product Backlog for the current Sprint, accompanied by a strategy to achieve the Product Increment.
  • An Increment represents the cumulative outcome of Product Backlog items finalized in a Sprint, augmented by the advancements from all preceding Sprints.


  • Sprint Planning: Planning the work to be performed in the Sprint.
  • Daily Stand-Up: Daily meeting to sync activities and plan for the next 24 hours.
  • Sprint Review: Reviewing the Increment with stakeholders and adapting the Product Backlog if necessary.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Reflecting on the past Sprint to improve processes and practices.

Advantages of Scrum

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability: Scrum's iterative nature allows for flexibility and rapid adaptation to change, making it ideal for projects with evolving requirements.
  2. Increased Productivity: By focusing on high-priority tasks and eliminating unnecessary work, teams can significantly boost productivity.
  3. Improved Quality: Regular reviews, continuous feedback, and iterative testing ensure high quality of the final product.
  4. Customer Satisfaction: Frequent deliveries of product increments and the ability to adjust to feedback increase customer engagement and satisfaction.
  5. Team Empowerment: Scrum's emphasis on self-organizing teams fosters a sense of ownership, motivation, and accountability among team members.
  6. Risk Reduction: Regular assessments of progress and obstacles allow for identifying and mitigating risks.

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What Is Kanban?

Kanban is a popular lean method to improve workflow and efficiency in various projects and processes, particularly in software development and manufacturing. Originating from the Japanese word for "signboard" or "billboard," Toyota first implemented Kanban in the 1940s to improve manufacturing efficiency. Various industries have since evolved and adopted it to manage work by visualizing tasks, limiting work in progress, and enhancing flow.. 

How Does Kanban Work?


Kanban Board

The essence of Kanban is to visualize work and maximize efficiency. Kanban achieves this through a Kanban board, a tool that visually represents the work to be done, the work in progress, and the work that has been completed. Tasks are represented by cards on the board, which move from one column to the next to reflect their progress through the workflow.

Key Principles include

  • Visualize Work: By using cards on a board to represent tasks, everyone involved can see the status of every piece of work at any time.
  • Limit Work in Progress (WIP): By setting limits on the tasks that can be at a certain stage at one time, Kanban helps teams focus on and finish current tasks before starting new ones.
  • Manage Flow: Monitoring the movement of tasks through the workflow helps identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
  • Make Process Policies Explicit: Clearly defining how and when tasks move from one stage to another ensures consistency and understanding across the team.
  • Feedback Loops: Regular meetings and discussions help the team reflect on the process and make necessary adjustments.
  • Improve Collaboratively: The team works together to improve the process continuously based on feedback and performance analysis.
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Core Components of Kanban

  • Kanban Board: A visual tool for displaying the workflow. It can be a physical board with sticky notes or a digital board using software. It consists of columns representing different stages of the process.
  • Cards: Each card represents a task or a piece of work. As work progresses through various stages, cards move from left to right on the board.
  • Columns: Each column represents a stage in the workflow. Common columns include "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done," but the setup can be customized to fit the specific process.
  • Work in Progress (WIP) Limits: WIP limits are set for each stage of the process to prevent any stage from becoming overloaded and ensure a smooth workflow.
  • Commitment Point: The stage at which work is agreed to start, indicating the team's commitment to the task.
  • Delivery Point: This stage represents the completion of work and is ready for delivery to the customer or stakeholder.

Benefits of Kanban

  1. Improved Efficiency: By visualizing work and limiting work in progress, Kanban helps identify bottlenecks and eliminates waste, leading to more efficient processes.
  2. Increased Flexibility: Kanban allows more flexibility in managing tasks and priorities than traditional project management methods, making it easier to adapt to changes.
  3. Enhanced Focus: WIP limits encourage teams to complete current tasks before starting new ones, which improves focus and reduces the time it takes to finish tasks.
  4. Better Visibility: The Kanban board provides a clear overview of the status of all tasks, making it easier for the team to manage workloads and for stakeholders to understand progress.
  5. Continuous Improvement: The iterative nature of Kanban, with its emphasis on feedback and collaboration, fosters a culture of continuous improvement within teams.

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How Are Kanban and Scrum Similar?

  1. Agile Foundations: Both are rooted in Agile principles, focusing on continuous improvement, flexibility, customer satisfaction, and delivering high-quality products.
  2. Emphasis on Visualization: Kanban and Scrum use boards to visualize the work process, making it easier for teams to communicate and see the status of work items.
  3. Continuous Delivery: They aim for continuous value delivery to the customer, with Scrum doing so at regular intervals (Sprints) and Kanban using a flow-based approach.
  4. Team Collaboration: Both methodologies promote self-organizing teams that collaborate and make process adjustments as needed.
  5. Flexibility and Responsiveness: They encourage adapting to changes in customer requirements or project scope quickly and efficiently.

Key Differences Between Scrum and Kanban

To best differentiate between the two approaches, we need to use a well-defined set of criteria, shown below.





Fixed-length Sprints (usually 2-4 weeks)

Continuous flow


Defined roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Team)

No predefined roles; the team may have different roles that Kanban does not define

Board Resets

The board resets after each Sprint

The board is continuous; no reset

Work Limitation

Work is limited to Sprint capacity

Work in Progress (WIP) limits, but no limit on work within a time frame

Change Philosophy

Changes are discouraged mid-sprint

Changes can be made anytime, as needed


Velocity (work completed per Sprint)

Lead time (time to complete a work item)

Primary Focus

Sprint goal (what is to be achieved by the end of Sprint)

Flow (continuous movement of work items)

Kanban vs Scrum: Which Should I Choose?

The choice between Scrum and Kanban depends on your team’s needs, the nature of your project, and your work environment.

  1. Scrum is well-suited for projects with rapidly changing requirements and where delivering small chunks of work in short cycles is beneficial. It's ideal for teams that can benefit from structured roles and regular iterations, such as in software or product development projects.
  2. Kanban is great for teams that need the flexibility to change priorities on the fly and for projects where work comes in continuously, such as support and maintenance tasks. It's also beneficial in environments where the scope is variable or unknown initially.

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When to Use Kanban vs Scrum?

Use Scrum when:

  • Your project involves complex work that benefits from iterative feedback.
  • You have a stable set of priorities for the short term.
  • You can commit to regular delivery schedules.
  • Your team benefits from defined roles and responsibilities.

Use Kanban when:

  • You need to manage a continuous flow of tasks.
  • Your project priorities change frequently.
  • The scope of work is not clearly defined from the start.
  • You aim to reduce the time required to complete individual tasks or issues.
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Kanban and Scrum are grounded in Agile principles and share the ultimate goal of delivering high-quality products efficiently. They cater to different project needs and work environments. Scrum, with its structured sprints and defined roles, provides an excellent framework for projects that benefit from regular intervals of work and consistent progress checks. It's particularly well-suited to teams that require clear direction and a rhythm to their development process. 

Conversely, Kanban offers unparalleled flexibility and adaptability. It allows teams to easily manage fluctuating workloads and adjust to changes swiftly without the need for structured intervals.

Choosing between Kanban vs Scrum should not be seen as an either/or proposition but rather as a decision based on the specific demands of your project, the nature of your team, and your operational environment. In some cases, teams might benefit from combining elements of both methodologies to create a hybrid approach that best suits their unique circumstances.

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1. Does Kanban have story points?

Kanban does not inherently use story points, as it focuses on continuous flow and reducing the time it takes to complete a work item rather than on estimating the effort of tasks.

2. What are the primary differences between Kanban and Scrum?

The primary differences include Scrum's fixed-length sprints and defined roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Development Team) versus Kanban's continuous flow, lack of defined roles, and focus on managing work in progress.

3. Can Kanban and Scrum work together?

Yes, Kanban and Scrum can be combined to leverage both strengths. For example, a team can use Scrum’s structured sprints and roles while applying Kanban’s visualization and WIP limits within those sprints.

4. How do I know if Kanban or Scrum is better for my project?

If your project has stable priorities that fit well into time-boxed iterations, Scrum might be better. Choose Kanban for projects requiring flexibility and the ability to change priorities quickly.

5. What are the first steps in adopting either Kanban or Scrum?

For both, start with training the team on the chosen methodology. Then, for Scrum, establish roles and plan your first sprint. For Kanban, set up your board and define WIP limits.

6. Can Kanban have sprints?

Traditionally, Kanban does not use sprints as they are based on a continuous flow. However, some teams adapt Kanban to include sprints for specific purposes.

7. Is Jira a Scrum or Kanban?

Jira supports both Scrum and Kanban methodologies. It offers templates and tools for managing projects with either approach, allowing teams to customize their workflow.

8. How do team sizes impact the choice between Kanban and Scrum?

Scrum can be ideal for small to medium-sized teams that benefit from structured roles and sprints. Kanban is more flexible, scalable, and suitable for any team size, especially when priorities shift frequently.

About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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