From Scrum to Kanban, there’s a version to suit your needs
By Dan Picard
Senior Editor/Manager, Quality Improvement Programs at MindEdge Learning
When most people think of the Agile approach to project management, they envision a team holding daily 15-minute meetings to update colleagues as they complete the items on a prioritized task list. While this image may be typical of one form of Agile, it represents only one of the many methodologies under the Agile umbrella. In truth, there are several types of Agile methodologies that can be used iteratively to create and improve project results that directly and immediately provide value to end users.
The Agile Methodologies
Any Agile framework includes a “light” methodology—one that relies on the close interaction of practitioners to collaborate and uncover needs in quick cycles, rather than producing long, elaborate plans that may be obsolete by the project’s end. The most common methodologies include:
- Scrum. Scrum is the form that most people visualize when they think of an Agile approach. Scrum structures work in short, iterative cycles (called sprints) where team members pull from a list of requirements that have been prioritized so that the features developed first are of the highest value to customers. At the end of each sprint, the team presents a usable product to its target audience, then turns its attention to enhancing its processes and procedures before launching a new sprint.
- Extreme Programming. Extreme programming (XP) is an engineering-based system that uses automation and an inwardly focused effort to increase productivity and minimize interim work products. It incorporates automated testing and integrates results on a daily basis, as team members pair together to review and correct mistakes as they are generated.
- Lean Software Development. Lean software development focuses on eliminating all the steps and processes that do not add value for customers or for the organization. Removing these wasteful activities and tasks allows development teams to focus on creating results that reflect what customers want and appreciate, and reduces the time to market for products and services.
- Kanban. The Kanban method prevents teams from being overwhelmed by limiting the amount of work that can be in process at one time. Work is “pulled” into the next stage of a project only after existing work has been completed. This method is especially helpful in areas where new requirements are added to a system at varying times and in varying amounts—it allows the team to focus only on a limited amount of existing work, without worrying about what work will be waiting in the production pipeline.
- Scrumban. Scrumban combines the Scrum and Kanban approaches to organize work in short sprints and limit the amount of work-in-progress in each project stage. Work is again pulled into action only after current tasks have been completed.
- Scaled Agile Framework. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) uses a systems-thinking approach to synchronize work and project results across an organization, and to scale Agile processes and practices to larger, more-complex projects. It views the interactions between and among organizational projects, to ensure the best rhythm and flow of work for projects and programs.
- Large Scale Scrum. Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is used to coordinate multiple Scrum teams, which are working concurrently, to create one large-scale product or project result. It synchronizes the teams’ actions and activities to achieve overall goals and objectives efficiently.
Regardless of the approach chosen, all of these methodologies share commonalities that are based in the Agile Manifesto and Agile Declaration of Interdependence: working in close collaboration with customers; adapting to change quickly and efficiently; integrating results into working products; and focusing on providing value to end users. At the same time, all of them aim to increase satisfaction among customers, staff, and management by empowering employees to produce results at a sustainable pace, while meeting user requirements and enhancing revenue streams.
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