Scrum and Kanban fusion with Lean Tadka

April 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Best fit Agile, Blogroll | Leave a comment

When we can have fusion music and fusion food, why not fusion Agile? Scrum and Kanban originated in two different worlds, but blending them together in a right mix opens up huge possibilities.

Scrum has its origins in software development. It evolved as a natural progression from waterfall to incremental to Scrum, while all along shrinking the time gap to the next stable increment. Given these roots it is not surprising that it continues to be a batch process; though with a small batch size of 2 to 4 weeks of work.

On the other hand, Kanban (and Lean) came from the manufacturing world; rather from the auto industry. So it is to be expected that there is a strong influence of the JIT (just-in-time) movement pioneered by the Japanese auto industry, which focuses on continuous flow.

In software development, Scrum started around 20 years back. Initially it was tried with small projects having collocated teams. With greater confidence from the initial successes, the word spread around and it is now being used in large and far more complex projects. This made it necessary to have a number of small cross-functional teams working on the same backlog. As if this was not enough, the offshore development model has added its own challenges; especially in the area of communication and collaboration.

There is also a strong desire to try Scrum for all kinds of situations, and even for organizational areas beyond software development. This led to renewed interest in other agile methods like Kanban and Lean, which though less than 10 years old in software development have been fast catching up. We are currently at an interesting point. There are some attempts at combining Scrum & Kanban, e.g. Scrumban, but these are few and far between. There is tremendous scope to take a fresh look from a higher agile perspective and dispassionately choose agile practices from these two methods as appropriate, without fear or favour.

Though the Scrum community at large appears to be a little skeptical and reluctant to explore other agile methods like Kanban and Lean, the Scrum guide which is the official Scrum reference has already moved towards a more realistic and flexible approach that makes it possible to continue with Scrum and at the same time borrow useful practices from Kanban and Lean.

Here are a few examples from the latest Scrum guide July 2013. Those who are still caught up in the old rigid ways of doing Scrum may find this uncomfortable. But others with an open mind will find it interesting.

• The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. The Product Owner tracks the total work remaining at least every Sprint Review. The Product Owner compares this amount with work remaining at previous Sprint Reviews to assess progress toward completing projected work by the desired time for the goal. This information is made transparent to all stakeholders.
• Various projective practices upon trending have been used to forecast progress, like burn-downs, burn-ups, or cumulative flows. These have proven useful. However, these do not replace the importance of empiricism. In complex environments, what will happen is unknown. Only what has happened may be used for forward-looking decision-making.
• The Sprint Goal gives the Development Team some flexibility regarding the functionality implemented within the Sprint. The Sprint Goal can be any coherence that causes the Development Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.
• The Sprint Backlog is the set of Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal. The Development Team modifies the Sprint Backlog throughout the Sprint, and the Sprint Backlog emerges during the Sprint.
• During the sprint planning meeting, work planned for the first days of the Sprint by the Development Team is decomposed by the end of this meeting, often to units of one day or less. As new work is required, the Development Team adds it to the Sprint Backlog. As work is performed or completed, the estimated remaining work is updated. When elements of the plan are deemed unnecessary, they are removed.
• At the end of a Sprint, the new Increment must be “Done”. It must be in useable condition regardless of whether the Product Owner decides to actually release it.

In short, the Scrum guide accepts the dynamism in complex situations, keeps the focus on the long term goal and tracks progress towards it sprint by sprint. While it recognizes usefulness of practices like burn-down burn-up and cumulative flow, it appreciates the importance of watching and adjusting to reality, not only by observations but also from data collected from the past. Emergence of powerful agile tools helps to provide progress visualization along with trends and patterns without any extra overhead once there is discipline of timely data updates in the tool. Even at the sprint level, initial planning is done in enough detail to gain confidence in the team’s ability to deliver on time, but the work details emerge throughout the sprint.

How can Lean and Kanban add value to Scrum? Lean brings the focus on end user value. When all the functions involved in the work focus on this value, their interactions automatically become collaborative rather than competitive. Handovers and delays between functions are avoided and the work flows fast and smooth. Kanban provides features to manage the WIP, Queues and bottlenecks which make the flow even more smooth and fast.

How can Scrum add value to Lean & Kanban? Scrum brings specific goals & milestones for incremental stability, which keeps the work on track in the desired direction.

When we combine these two streams together, we get a simple & flexible framework to manage a broad variety of situations from very simple to very complex. More on this in the upcoming posts.

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