Scrum, Kanban, OpenAgile: Same Goals, Different Approaches

The inspiration of this opinion piece comes from a professional student who just finished reading “The Scrum Guide” by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, “Essential Kanban Condensed” by David J Anderson and Andy Carmichael, and “The OpenAgile Primer” by Mishkin Berteig and The Berteig Consulting Team. These thoughts come from a humble place and is very open to feedback, differing opinions, or just comments in general. If I’m out to lunch, let me know!

On the surface of what seemingly looked like 3 very similar practices–after careful deliberation–turned out to be 3 unique approaches to creating high performance teams that deliver quality services. The objective of my article is to share some of the key differences that I uncovered after reading about each practice.

 

Differences in Structure:

All 3 agile practices rely on iterative development and continuous feedback to optimize the delivery of products and services. However, the difference I see is in the structure of each. Scrum is a defined framework with a set prescription to maximize the output of software delivery and product building. Whereas, Kanban is a flexible method that uses evolutionary change and self-organization as a way to continuously build out value and services, without overburdening the team. OpenAgile uses self-organizing behaviour that allows team members to commit to tasks based on capacity while prioritizing tasks with the highest value drivers.

 

Differences in Reflection periods:

All 3 agile practices stress the importance of reflecting and receiving feedback, however, each one implements this important event at different times. One of Scrum’s most vital ceremonies is the “Retrospective”. This time of reflection takes place at the end of every sprint—giving team members the time to reflect on ‘what went right’, ‘what went wrong’, and ‘areas for improvement’. OpenAgile encourages reflection within the ‘Engagement Meeting’ which kicks off every cycle—allowing team members to start off with improvement ideas at the forefront of every new cycle. Kanban on the other hand, incorporates seven specific opportunities for feedback loops (i.e. cadences) which are strategically placed so that feedback is continuous and supports the goal of evolutionary change.

 

Differences in Defining a “Team”:

All 3 writings described the importance and closeness of the “team” that is building these high-value services/products yet, the makeup of these teams differed quite largely between the 3 agile practices. Starting with Scrum—this practice has the defined role of ‘Scrum Master’ and ‘Product Owner’ but a cross-functional group of people who makeup the ‘development team’. The ‘Scum Master’ and ‘Product Owner’ are very intentional roles—serving strict and important functions for the ‘development team’ and their success. This differs from a ‘team’ within the Kanban practice which is just a group of people with no real designated roles. The team as a whole, works collaboratively and self-organizes on their own. Similarly, OpenAgile does not concern itself with defined roles and is also made up of a self-organizing team (or individual). However, OpenAgile does speak on the importance of team members stepping up to serve their teams in necessary capacities in which they name as the process facilitator and growth facilitator.


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2 thoughts on “Scrum, Kanban, OpenAgile: Same Goals, Different Approaches”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Given the difference in structure, feedback cadence, and team composition — each of these practices may fit into different organizations. I’d be interested to know your opinion about how such a match would be discovered: through analysis/categorization? through experimentation? maybe choice? Example: can any organization or team simply *choose* from these three? Or can these options be reduced to a single, best option through categorization?

    Thanks for writing!

  2. Hi David,

    In my opinion, I think it really depends on the goals and make up of the organization. If the organization is trying to build a “product”, then I think scrum is the best framework to follow. However, if they were building a “set of services”, then Kanban or OpenAgile may be better suited.

    Organizations can also experiment between the agile practices to see what’s best suited for their environment. They may even choose to blend the practices (e.g. utilizing the Kanban board while conducting scrum ceremonies) in order to customize their transformation to organizational agility.

    Thank you for reading and for sharing your questions!

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