Thursday, October 29, 2015

What's better: Scrum, Kanban or XP?

The question "Which agile framework is the best?" is often raised by people who are fairly new to the world of agile frameworks. In short: I can't answer this question without asking a counter-question: "Best for what?"

When your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail!

Let me analyze the problem in regards to the image above.

Scrum: keep things in place

Scrum is primarily known for the sprint cycle process and the ceremonies: Grooming, Refinement, Planning, Daily Standup, Review and Retrospective.
Scrum discerns only the roles Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developer. You need a Product and Sprint Backlog consisting of Stories, in the latter broken down into Tasks.
You'll need to define suitable Working Agreements, such as a Definition of Ready and Definition of Done with your team, then use Inspect+Adapt on these rules to optimize your process continuously.

Scrum is quite rigorous. If you do not have any of these things, you end up with a disdained "Scrum-But". If you do something beyond, you usually also end up breaking your Scrum.

Scrum is a wonderful framework for creating structure, clarity and order. Additionally, Scrum reduces volatility, enhancing predictability and confidence.

Kanban: Create flow

Kanban is often confused with the Kanban board, the most notable artifact. Making work visible, creating a smooth flow of work as well as identifying and removing bottlenecks are all key factors of successful Kanban.

Kanban is very flexible. You can start with Kanban wherever your organization is, without interference to structure or process. From there, you start optimizing.

Kanban is a wonderful framework for making impediments visible and optimizing delivery.

XP: Professional Craftsmanship

Extreme Programming is mostly concerned with Engineering Practices. Techniques such as Pairing, Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration and Refactoring will lift your developers to new levels of excellence.
Design concepts such as Whole Team approach, Collective Code Ownership, Clean Code, Emergent Design will broaden your team's horizon and capacity.
Lean concepts such as sustainable pace, Metaphors, Small batches, Standards , Automation and Continuous Improvement reduce waste and risk.

XP is process-agnostic. You can pick individual practices from XP that solve specific needs in your team, although taking the batch is advised for best results.


None of these agile frameworks is "better". Each of them has a specific area of use. As such, the frameworks become "better for solving a specific problem". Therefore, you need to define your problem first before answering the question "Which framework is best?" - a hammer is better for fixing a nail, but not for a screw. Of course, you can cut a board with a screwdriver, but a saw would suit your need better.

Take some time, define your specific problem, then work from there.
Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Solve organizational or process issues with Scrum.
  • When you can't seem to get anything "done", try Kanban.
  • When your perceive quality or architectural issues, apply XP.
These frameworks are not exclusive. You can mix them - and high performance teams combine them. Scrumban is famous, for instance.

Disclaimer: None of these frameworks will actually make you successful in the long term without an Agile Mindset. If you have issues with Agile Values or Agile Principles, your only fix is returning to the Agile Manifesto - regardless of which framework you're using!

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