Agile #2 – Kanban vs Scrum – Myths and Truths

After an introduction on Kanban, in this second article I will try to make some evaluation of Kanban, taking Scrum as reference which is a methodology I consider myself experienced. I want also to emerge some myths and truths that are flying around. Personally I have been using Scrum for almost three years in the same project (in a definitevly non-agile organization – with all the difficulties implied). in 2011 I became Scrum Master certified.

Before start reading, be aware that this article doesn’t aim to support one or another agile methodology. I’d like to share some thoughts coming from my experience.

Let’s talk about Scrum. From Wikipedia: Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development method for managing software projects and product or application development. Scrum has not only reinforced the interest in project management, but also challenged the conventional ideas about such management. Scrum focuses on project management institutions where it is difficult to plan ahead. Mechanisms of empirical process control, where feedback loops that constitute the core management technique are used as opposed to traditional command-and-control oriented management. It represents a radically new approach for planning and managing projects, bringing decision-making authority to the level of operation properties and certainties.”

Scrum methodology

Scrum also define three main roles: Team, Scrum Master, Product Owner with different responsibilities and duties. If you want to know more about Scrum this page contains good description and explanation.

Kanban and Scrum, two different models, two different origin, a common goal: deliver business value.

To achieve the same goal, Kanban and Scrum use different approaches, and they can be effective on different contextes. Let’s see some myths and truth about my experience with Scrum and Kanban:

Myth #1: ${methodology} gives better visualization of the workflow and the problems can be better identified. This is not true, if the problems are not visible on the board means the board is not correctly designed. Change the board instead (e.g. add more columns).

Myth #2Scrum is harder to adopt, because has more rules and is more restrictive, Kanban is easier and can be adopted step by step. Indeed Scrum has more rules, but nobody stops you to adopt Scrum gradually or only partially. For example you could start having stand-up meetings every day. Adopting the full implementation of Scrum require just a bit more training than Kanban.

Myth #3Repeated daily meetings are part of the waste generated due to communication overhead. I think in every environment the communication is one of the failure point. The benefit of having daily short meetings is enforce everybody to be informed about what is going on in the team. Believe me, desk-mate sometimes are not talking. 15 minutes must be the maximum time for a stand up meeting for a 7/8 team’s people.

Truth #1Kanban works better in a maintenance team. In maintenance mode, the team has to guarantee a constant lead-time (time from when the ticket is open to when is closed). The input throughput is not predictable and is subject to high variability. The focus is not the delivery before a certain date (end of the iteration) on tasks coming with variability therefore Kanban is surely a better choice.

Truth #2: Scrum works better in a development team. Where the focus is to delivery incremental features within sprint boundaries, Scrum gives to the team better visualization of the short-term and final goal. Kanban has the concept of fixed delivery date, and can be adapted, but Scrum comes naturally as the best choice for this case.

We can stay talk for hours to see the differences, but the real truth is that both can be adapted to basically any kind of situation. The real problem is not the method itself but the maturity of the organization. That’s the crucial point! Maturity of the organization doesn’t mean only maturity of the management, but also maturity of external teams, procurement, test teams, etc however most of the big organizations are still behind the schedule, and they are starting slowly to move out from the old waterfall approaches.

For sleepless nights: Scrum vs Kanban:  is an interesting book, written by Henrik Kniberg that explain how Scrum and Kanban are related and can be used together.

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Groovy & Grails eXchange 2009

The Groovy & Grails eXchange, organized by skillsmatter, was the first international conferences about software development I’ve attended in my career. Before I was more concentrated mostly on Linux and the Fedoraproject (FOSDEM, Linux TAG for instance).

The conference was headed in London from December 9th to 10th. The first day was focuses on Groovy and the second on Grails. I went there with Raffaele and Davide, friends and colleague of mine (we work together in Holland). As the conferences last Wednesday and Thursday, we decided to get Friday off and stay in London during the week end to visit the city (I already been there almost one year ago but London is always lovely).

At the conference there were about 150 people, mostly developers (heavy twitter users), in particular freelancers and really small companies from all over the world.

I really found all the speech really interesting. Guillaume Laforge spoke about the features of Groovy 1.7 and above (we even had a brief introduction about what are they considering to include in the 1.8 release) and Graeme Rocher introduced Grails 1.2.0 and the new plug-in development approach.

Based on my work in Holland, I really appreciated the ‘Groovy code kata’  talk from Dierk Koening and the DSL speech from Verkat Subramaniam. I had a really interesting chat with him about DSLs, in particular about what we should consider more important to balance the DSL we designed and are using in our project (I swear, I’ll post about it). I found Verkat really good to make examples in order to help you to understand better complexed concepts (DSL by examples might be a suggestion for next book ;-)).

You can find some photos about the conference itself here and here.

I’m really satisfied by this conference, I met a lot of people and exchange contact with them to keep in touch and, at the end I won Grails in Action book. :-) I also met also three guys from the NLGUG (Netherland Groovy User Group): Erik, Alex and Sebastien. They were really interested to my work with groovy and they invited me to give a speech, next year, to the Groovy User Group. I already accepted because it’s cool to meet new people on topics I like and I’ll get the opportunity to get more integrated into the local groups.

I met also Alberto Brandolini (ZioBrando for most of the people), who is a trainer for skillsmatter and a expert software architect in Italy. Before, he saw only a name and a photo but fortunately I had the opportunity to spoke with him to exchange some ideas and suggestion.

After the conferences we enjoy London for three days. I can say that I love London, and it’s strange because London is chaotic and I’m not use to it, but it has a fashion and a people integration level that is difficult(may be impossible) to find in any other cities (maybe in New York, but I’ve never been there, yet).

Maybe after my project in Holland will be finished, I’ll move there for a while, who knows. But we’ll see.

From London I can say that English people are really crazy, or they drink like sponges. I really would like to know how many drink they drink: I saw people with t-shirt in the middle of the night with around 0° or below, is it possible to survive? I would like to know how can they drink English beers: for me are too warm and they have a strange bitter after-taste.

Anyway London is fantastic and beautiful.  Period.

I took some photos, you can find here.

Rotterdam: modern art within a city

Rotterdam is nice, but looks like a non-Dutch city. Seems more like a German city. Big, large, modern.

It was completely rebuilt after the second world war. For people used to Dutch cities, like Utrecht or Amsterdam, Rotterdam might be ugly: big and sometimes empty streets, skyscrapers, seems oversized… and living there might be difficult…

But at the end I believe Rotterdam is like modern art: cube house, skyscrapers, towers…

I saw Rotterdam in a sunny Sunday and I can say that probably is not a people city like, for example, Delft or Utrecht but is nice and photographically speaking give you a lot of inspiration.

The harbour is amazing! The weather was perfect…during the sunset the harbour creates a gorgeous combination of shadows and shapes.


This set is an experiment of  RAW development using Bibble, you can find it here. i have a laptop with a screen not really luminous, sometimes I might use too much saturation and contrasts…