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HomeSoftware EngineeringLean vs. Agile vs. Scrum vs. Kanban: A Comparability

Lean vs. Agile vs. Scrum vs. Kanban: A Comparability

Over the previous three a long time, Agile-inspired frameworks reminiscent of Scrum, Kanban, Excessive Programming (XP), and Lean-Agile have come to dominate software program growth. Whereas they share a lineage, every gives a unique strategy to managing software program growth tasks—and every has distinct benefits and limitations.

On this mission administration blueprint, I focus on the Lean and Agile philosophies and hint their discursive evolution and utilized follow from auto-manufacturing in mid-Twentieth-century Japan to their present-day use by software program groups worldwide, adopted by a detailed examination of Scrum and Kanban, the 2 most prevalent Agile-inspired frameworks within the business at the moment.

A timeline of seminal works on lean-agile development discussed in the article.
These seminal titles hint the event of Agile frameworks in mission administration discourse. They’re important studying for mission practitioners.

Lean Philosophies

The time period “Lean” developed from the Toyota Manufacturing System (TPS), a producing mannequin developed by Sakichi Toyoda, Kiichiro Toyoda, and Taiichi Ohno. The system revolutionized manufacturing from the Fifties to the Nineteen Seventies by specializing in eliminating inefficiencies from the manufacturing course of. Toyota recognized three broad sources of inefficiency:

  1. Waste: Waste (recognized in Japanese as muda) arises as a result of defects, overproduction, ready, transport, inventories, movement, and extra processing. (Many corporations now acknowledge unused expertise as an eighth kind of waste.)

  2. Overburden: Overburden (muri) applies to personnel and equipment and manifests as burnout, absenteeism, or questions of safety. To stop muri, Toyota distributed manufacturing actions evenly throughout the meeting line.

  3. Unevenness: Unevenness (mura) may result from fluctuating buyer demand or variations in operator pace or product completion occasions. It will increase the danger of overburden, creating waste. Coaching staff on a number of machines for elevated flexibility and forecasting demand will help scale back unevenness.

To take away these impediments, Toyota established its manufacturing system on a core idea generally known as “just-in-time.” This strategy minimizes the retention of extra inventory previous to manufacturing. As a substitute, the corporate replenishes supplies as merchandise are accomplished in what’s generally known as a “pull system.”

Toyota acknowledged that high quality management have to be ingrained within the manufacturing course of, requiring each automation and human intelligence—a mix known as jidoka. Toyota designed equipment to cease mechanically when an issue occurred. The corporate additionally empowered staff to cease manufacturing after they observed irregularities.

TPS emphasizes the need of steady enchancment, on-the-ground statement, and respect for folks by teamwork and collaboration. Toyota’s philosophy and practices have been additional popularized within the 1990 ebook The Machine That Modified the World by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos, which cited TPS because the mannequin for “Lean manufacturing.”

Lean Developments

Lean ideas started getting into software program growth within the Nineties. At that time, the business was in determined want of latest approaches. A 1994 report by the Standish Group discovered that fewer than one in 5 software program tasks have been an unqualified success. These deficiencies have been partly as a result of conventional Waterfall methodologies, which outlined necessities initially of multiyear tasks and resulted in late or over-budget software program supply. In some instances, the deliverables have been out of date as a result of market modifications that had occurred throughout a mission.

Early enhancements to Waterfall included fast utility growth, which emerged at IBM and unfold with the publication of James Martin’s 1991 ebook Speedy Software Improvement. This technique centered on waste discount by way of methods reminiscent of fast prototyping. Software program builders additionally moved towards incremental growth, including options in a continuous iteration of small tasks. Whereas these methods of working helped, they didn’t remedy the core issues related to Waterfall.

One other vital growth occurred throughout the realm of enterprise administration. In 1996, authors James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones adopted up on The Machine That Modified the World with Lean Pondering. The ebook outlined the ideas of Lean administration, distilling the core Lean values of steady enchancment and respect for folks into 5 prescriptive ideas that could possibly be used to remove waste and enhance repeatedly. These concepts would inform the event of Lean-Agile methodologies within the a long time to come back.

In the meantime, software program builders started to independently develop new Lean-inspired methodologies and frameworks, together with Scrum, XP, Crystal, and Adaptive Software program Improvement. These typically originated from in-house efforts to enhance effectivity, however builders had additionally begun to share their concepts by publications and shows.

Agile Approaches

In February 2001, a gaggle of software program business leaders met in Snowbird, Utah, to plot an answer for effectivity issues in software program growth. The attendees included a number of folks already credited with launching Lean-inspired methodologies, together with Jim Highsmith (Adaptive Software program Improvement); Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber, and Mike Beedle (Scrum); Kent Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham (XP); and Alistair Cockburn (Crystal).

The assembly resulted within the Manifesto for Agile Software program Improvement (typically known as the Agile Manifesto), through which the attendees laid out 12 Lean-inspired ideas for software program growth. The ideas emphasised the significance of adapting to altering necessities and buyer wants, minimizing waste, and delivering working software program quicker utilizing an incremental strategy. The core values of the Agile Manifesto are extensively recognized at the moment however value reiterating. These values prioritize:

  • People and interactions over processes and instruments.
  • Working software program over complete documentation.
  • Buyer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to vary over following a plan.

In 2002, Jim Highsmith expounded on Agile ideas in Agile Software program Improvement Ecosystems. The ebook described the sooner Lean-inspired strategies like Scrum and XP as methods for reaching Agile software program growth.

Within the years following the Agile Manifesto, extra frameworks and methodologies emerged, placing the philosophy’s values and ideas into follow. Mary and Tom Poppendieck revealed Lean Software program Improvement: An Agile Toolkit in 2003. Their strategy makes use of the seven types of waste in Lean manufacturing as a jumping-off level for Agile software program growth. In 2010, David J. Anderson, a software program engineer at Microsoft, formally outlined Kanban, one other Lean-inspired methodology, in his ebook Kanban: Profitable Evolutionary Change for Your Expertise Enterprise.

In the present day, the 2 most distinguished Agile-enabled frameworks are Scrum and Kanban. I focus on these two frameworks within the following sections, exhibiting the similarities and variations between them.


Scrum has confirmed to be the preferred Agile-enabled framework, utilized by 87% of respondents, in keeping with the 2022 State of Agile Report. (Many contributors used a couple of framework or methodology.) The time period “scrum” originates in rugby, the place it describes a good formation of gamers across the ball. It was launched in a producing context by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in a 1986 Harvard Enterprise Evaluation article. They used the time period to explain the teamwork required to maneuver a mission “downfield.”

Scrum entered the software program business in 1993 when Jeff Sutherland started implementing Scrum processes with colleagues on the Easel Company. Two years later, Sutherland and Ken Schwaber introduced a paper on the Scrum growth course of at a software program business convention. Schwaber then labored with Mike Beedle to element the strategy of their 2002 ebook Agile Software program Improvement with Scrum. In that very same yr, the Scrum Alliance was fashioned by Schwaber, together with Mike Cohn and Esther Derby; since then, it has grown to develop into the world’s largest Agile and Scrum certification {and professional} networking group.

Scrum Overview

Scrum is an incremental and iterative framework for software program growth. Its ideas and practices assist groups work in brief cycles, enabling fast response to suggestions and altering wants. The framework is prescriptive, with clearly outlined staff buildings, workflows, occasions, and phrases.

Scrum entails self-organizing, self-managing teams of often 5 to seven staff members. One member is called the Scrum grasp: This servant-leader facilitates collaboration and enforces Scrum processes, however just isn’t chargeable for assigning duties or product supply. One other member, the product proprietor, defines the imaginative and prescient for the staff, engages with different stakeholders, and in the end accepts or rejects the staff’s work. Groups are cross-functional; members work collectively and are usually not certain to distinct roles like architect, programmer, designer, or tester.

Work happens in brief, time-boxed iterations known as sprints, usually one to 4 weeks in length. The dash focuses on work objects from a prioritized “product backlog” established earlier than the dash begins. The staff goals to ship working software program on the finish of every dash, enabling fast suggestions cycles.

Scrum artifacts, ceremonies, and roles in a graphic workflow.
The important parts of the Scrum framework emphasize steady enchancment by prescribed occasions, staff member actions, and artifacts.

Scrum Course of

Earlier than a dash can start, the product proprietor creates a product backlog. The backlog often begins with growth objects known as “person tales.” The tales outline product options from an end-user perspective. Analysis and prototyping duties are known as “spikes” and are generally required earlier than the staff can start a narrative. The product proprietor arranges the backlogged work in precedence order.

As soon as a product backlog is created and prioritized, the continuing backlog refinement course of takes over. The Scrum staff evaluations a listing of tales and different duties. They meet with the product proprietor and Scrum grasp and focus on “acceptance standards” for every story (i.e., the testable necessities specified by the product proprietor). In addition they consider complexity, threat, measurement, implementation technique, and different components. As soon as the contributors set up a standard understanding of every story, they estimate the hassle required to finish the duty by evaluating it to a earlier, well-understood piece of labor and assigning size-based values known asstory factors.”

To formally launch the dash, the Scrum grasp facilitates a dash planning assembly with the Scrum staff and the product proprietor. The staff determines its dash capability, which is the variety of story factors it will probably deal with primarily based on the obtainable time and assets. The product proprietor presents objects from the product backlog, and the staff discusses every story and breaks down the subtasks required for the story to satisfy the “definition of accomplished” (DoD). They proceed pulling tales from the backlog till reaching the dash capability. The tales are organized on a table-style show known as a Scrum board, the place the staff will observe progress throughout the dash. After reviewing the dash scope, the Scrum staff (however not the Scrum grasp or product proprietor) commits to finishing the work (i.e., the “dash backlog”), and the dash commences.

Firstly of every day throughout the dash, the Scrum grasp facilitates a quick, 15-minute assembly with the Scrum staff and product proprietor to plan and evaluate progress. This brief assembly is called the “every day scrum.” Every individual briefly reviews on work accomplished the day earlier than, the work deliberate for the present day, and any impediments. When a staff member identifies an impediment, the Scrum grasp provides the merchandise to an “impediments backlog,” offering visibility for the staff. The Scrum grasp is chargeable for addressing points on the impediments backlog.

Along with sustaining the Scrum board, the Scrum grasp screens progress with a burndown chart. The chart reveals the quantity of labor accomplished, measured in story factors. The remaining story factors are proven on the Y axis, and the remaining time is proven on the X axis. The Scrum grasp updates the dash burndown chart because the staff completes tales.

A sample sprint burndown chart showing amount of work completed and remaining, measured in story points.
A burndown chart allows Scrum groups to visualise every day progress. The downward development illustrates duties accomplished, conserving groups centered on effectivity, collaboration, and reaching mission targets.

On the finish of the dash, the Scrum grasp facilitates a dash demo assembly at which the staff presents every accomplished story utilizing the working software program. The product proprietor will approve the story if all of the acceptance standards are met. If a narrative is rejected, the product proprietor identifies the shortfalls, and the story returns to the product backlog in its precedence order. Typically, the rejected portion of a narrative is transformed right into a separate story, and the unique is closed.

After the dash demo, the Scrum grasp facilitates a closing assembly generally known as the dash retrospective. The staff displays on the dash and evaluates what went properly and what didn’t. This course of generates a listing of enchancment motion objects, which can be added to the product backlog or trigger modifications to the staff constitution.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Scrum

As a result of Scrum groups prioritize backlog objects and work in brief iterations that at all times produce working software program, Scrum permits prospects to find out what they like (and don’t like) and request modifications throughout product growth. The overhead prices for course of and administration are decrease, resulting in faster, cheaper outcomes.

Nevertheless, Scrum just isn’t one of the best mission administration course of in some conditions. Organizations ought to perceive points that may come up from this framework:

  • Transparency: Scrum will increase transparency and accountability. Though transparency is advantageous, it may be uncomfortable when issues and poor efficiency are uncovered, resulting in resistance if not appropriately dealt with throughout the Scrum framework of steady enchancment.
  • Workforce expertise and dedication: Inexperienced or uncommitted Scrum groups or Scrum masters may cause critical issues by misapplying the Scrum framework. As a result of staff members should not have outlined roles, all members should possess related technical expertise. Scrum additionally advantages from dedication coming from different elements of the group.
  • Scope creep: One of many foremost benefits of Scrum is that groups and stakeholders can alter priorities and scope alongside the best way, however this will also be a drawback if self-discipline isn’t used. Scope creep is a particular concern for tasks with no outlined finish date, as stakeholders might proceed including work objects.
  • Poorly outlined work: Poorly outlined and understood person tales or duties can result in rework, inaccurate estimates, and scope creep. Though Scrum prioritizes growing working software program over documentation, the product proprietor should clearly talk standards and expectations.
  • Scaling: Scrum capabilities finest with smaller groups. Massive groups require a totally different strategy.

Scrum is a superb framework for tasks with necessities which can be unsure or anticipated to vary. It’s best-suited for knowledgeable, motivated groups, because it empowers them to prepare their work and consider progress and issues. Scrum groups typically enhance and develop into extra productive over time.


Kanban is an Agile administration course of that focuses on visualization, workflow, and limiting work in progress. The idea emerged straight from the TPS, through which the time period kanban (or “signboard”) refers to tags on merchandise and supplies. When a Toyota employee removes the kanban and sends it down the manufacturing line, a brand new order is initiated.

Software program builders started to undertake Kanban following David J. Anderson’s 2010 ebook Kanban: Profitable Evolutionary Change for Your Expertise Enterprise, which outlined methods used at Microsoft. Lately, its use has expanded quickly. The 2022 State of Agile Report discovered that 56% of Agile groups use Kanban, making it the second-most fashionable methodology following Scrum.

Kanban Course of

In software program growth, Kanban resembles a light-weight and fewer regimented model of Scrum. The staff makes use of a Kanban board to visualise work in progress. The board is just like a Scrum board, however the workflow doesn’t advance in time-boxed sprints. As a substitute, Kanban permits for a continuous stream of labor however limits what number of objects occupy every standing at one time primarily based on staff capability. The staff can’t pull new work till current work advances.

A sample Kanban board: Columns depict development phases of work items as they advance across the board
Kanban boards observe duties as they stream from “To-Do” to “Performed,” empowering groups to handle priorities, streamline processes, and meet deadlines.

As a result of Kanban groups are usually not required to work in sprints, the groups don’t observe a prescribed course of conferences for planning, product demonstrations, retrospectives, and so forth. Steady enchancment is achieved by monitoring and analyzing the stream of things and making incremental enhancements as points are uncovered.

Kanban doesn’t prescribe particular roles for staff members, though a mission supervisor typically facilitates actions and ensures that work objects are prioritized and clearly understood. A single Kanban board may even be shared throughout groups.

This desk is an summary comparability of Kanban and Scrum:



Steady supply

Quick, time-boxed sprints

Minimal course of and overhead

Prescribed dash occasions and roles

Finishing particular person objects rapidly

Finishing a batch of labor rapidly

Measures cycle time

Measures dash velocity

Focuses on environment friendly stream

Focuses on predictability

Limits WIP for particular person objects

Limits WIP at a dash degree

Particular person work objects are pulled

Work is pulled in batches at dash planning

No prescribed roles

Has prescribed roles (Scrum grasp, product proprietor, developer)

Kanban board could be organized round a single cross-functional staff or a number of specialised groups

Scrum board is organized round a single cross-functional staff

Adjustments could be made at any time so stream is extra versatile

Adjustments are solely allowed within the product backlog, by no means inside a dash

Requires minimal coaching

Requires extra coaching

Good for groups the place solely incremental enhancements are wanted

Good for groups the place basic modifications are wanted

General, Kanban is a extremely adaptable methodology that’s well-suited for groups making incremental enhancements to a product. It requires much less coaching than Scrum and is extra versatile. Kanban could be mixed with different frameworks and might even be carried out at enterprise scale.

Past the Blueprint

In accordance with the Standish Group, tasks that implement Agile frameworks and methodologies are roughly 4 occasions extra more likely to succeed than these utilizing extra conventional strategies. The most well-liked Agile-inspired project-managed blueprints used for software program growth have their historic roots in Lean manufacturing and TPS and have remodeled the software program business over the previous three a long time.

A very good understanding of Lean, Agile, Scrum, and Kanban is prime to the sphere of mission administration and having all of them defined in a single place allows additional steady enchancment and development as groups and corporations scale utilizing Waterfall, DAD, SAFe, and different hybrid approaches.

This text has just lately undergone a complete replace to include the newest and most correct data. Feedback beneath might predate these modifications.



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