All around the world, agile teams use the kanban method alongside scrum to amplify scrum's capabilities and maximize its benefits. So far, I've barely known agile teams that have not leveraged kanban's capabilities to enhance scrum.
In simple terms, kanban is a workflow management technique that is used by teams to visualize the flow of work from start to finish. By doing this and applying other kanban principles, teams have achieved improved cycle times, higher throughput, and greater predictability, all of which have contributed to improved organizational velocity and in turn, happier customers.
Three principles of Kanban and how they make scrum better
Visualize the workflow - Kanban Board
First off is visualization, a practice that immediately makes the workflow transparent. Kanban boards assist with this. The board's configuration usually consists of all the steps that a work item passes through until it reaches completion. Essential is to ensure that the board prompts the right conversations at the right time, and creates opportunities for improvement.
Limit the WIP
"Work in Progress (WIP) has limits".
I remember reading this quote a couple of years ago on a Leankit T-shirt. It intrigued me at the time, and soon enough, I understood what it meant. It made a lot of sense.
There's work. We start it, and then we finish. Everything in between is WIP. Therefore, WIP refers to the work items that have started but not yet finished.
Scrum teams indulge themselves in capacity based planning. This means that they first determine the amount of time on their hands and then plan the quantity of work they can accomplish within those time limits. To achieve their goals 100% in the planned timeframe, scrum teams must explicitly define their WIP limits.
The primary effect of limiting WIP is that it creates a pull system. In a pull system, the team starts work (i.e. pulls) on an item only when it has available capacity. New work gets pulled when the WIP drops below the defined limit.
Focus on increasing flow
Flow is a term synonymous with cycle time or lead time. Cycle time is the total time it takes for a work item from start to finish. Accelerating the flow of a work item results in faster delivery of value to customers.
Kanban teams can use different strategies to increase flow such as team members having overlapping skill sets or cross-skilling. Shared skills mean that members can take on heterogeneous work, thus improving cycle time.
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