Scrumban vs Kanban: A Guide on the Difference Between Scrumban and Kanban

As an aspiring Agile project manager, you are likely to know Scrum and Kanban are two popular Agile methodologies used to manage projects and workflows. But have you heard of Scrumban?

Scrumban is a hybrid methodology that combines the principles of both Scrum and Kanban into one fluid project management framework.

In this post, we’ll compare Scrumban vs Kanban, covering their key principles, how to implement each methodology, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. We’ll also outline the differences between Scrumban and Kanban to help you determine when to use each system for your Agile projects.

You’ll learn exactly how Scrumban leverages a combination of Scrum’s structure with Kanban’s flexibility for optimized workflows.

Scrumban vs Kanban Overview

Bottomline Upfront: The main difference between Scrumban and Kanban is that Scrumban aims to provide more structure and Sprint cadence while optimizing flow, whereas Kanban focuses solely on continuous flow and maximum flexibility without imposed planning cycles or structure.

Also, Scrumban offers more guardrails than pure Kanban. You will learn more differences between both methodologies in this article as you read further.

What is Scrumban Methodology?

First off, let’s properly dissect what Scrumban is all about. Scrumban is a hybrid Agile methodology that combines aspects of both Scrum and Kanban frameworks. It was originally created as a transition process to help teams shift from Scrum to Kanban but has since evolved into its own methodology.

The Scrumban methodology takes the basic Scrum framework of Sprints and prioritized Product Backlogs and combines it with the workflow visualization and pull system of Kanban.

Unlike Scrum, Scrumban does not adhere to strict timeboxed Sprints or Scrum rituals like Daily Standups, Retrospectives, and Sprint Planning.

However, Scrumban does implement Kanban practices like Work In Progress (WIP) limits, continuous delivery, and pull scheduling. The Scrumban board displays key stages like To Do, In Progress, and Done, with flexible, ongoing iterations.

Overall, Scrumban aims to provide more flexibility than Scrum while maintaining structure and process optimization. It allows for faster delivery of product increments while still enabling teams to visualize workflow and limit WIP. For many teams, Scrumban offers the best of both Scrum and Kanban worlds.

The main goal of Scrumban is to facilitate a smooth, continuous flow of work at an optimal pace. It emphasizes removing bottlenecks, addressing inefficiencies, and continually improving team productivity. Rather than timebound Sprints, work can be pulled continuously into the workflow when capacity allows.

Scrumban Principles

The Scrumban methodology is based on some key principles from both Scrum and Kanban:

  • Continuous Flow: Work is pulled into the process continuously rather than batched into Sprints. The team focuses on a smooth, ongoing flow of work.
  • Focus on Prioritization: The Product Owner prioritizes the Product Backlog, and the team pulls in the top items first. This prioritization is essential to ensure that the most valuable work gets done sooner.
  • Limit WIP: Work in Progress limits are set for each stage of the workflow which reduces bottlenecks and multitasking while enhancing focus.
  • Visualization: The Scrumban board provides transparency into the process ensuring that all work items and workflow stages are visualized.
  • Continuous improvement: The team retrospects and tunes the process frequently. Also, issues are addressed quickly to optimize flow.
  • Focus on Delivery: The goal is to deliver Product Increments continuously at a sustainable pace. Output is optimized rather than utilization.
  • Team Autonomy: The team self-organizes and pulls in work as capacity allows rather than having work pushed on them.

How to Implement Scrumban

Here are some key steps that you can use to implement Scrumban:

1. Create a Scrumban Board

The Scrumban board visually depicts the workflow and stages for each work item. It typically includes columns like “To Do”, “In Progress”, “Testing”, and “Done”. Make sure that the stages represent your team’s actual process.

2. Prioritize the Backlog

Prior to pulling items into the workflow, the Product Owner needs to groom and prioritize the Product Backlog to ensure that the top value-adding items get worked on first.

3. Set WIP Limits

Analyze the historical throughput and capacity to determine the suitable Work In Progress (WIP) limits for each stage of the process. This constrains the amount of work flowing through each step. You can start conservatively and evolve the limits over time.

4. Implement a Pull System

Team members pull in work as capacity allows rather than having work pushed on them. New items are only pulled into “To Do” when there is available capacity within the WIP limits.

5. Optimize Flow

Review cycle time metrics and identify bottlenecks inhibiting flow, and then address issues through process changes, WIP limit adjustments, or additional resources. The goal is a smooth, continuous flow.

6. Retrospect Regularly

Conduct regular retrospectives to inspect and adapt the process. Discuss opportunities to improve flow, quality, and team productivity, then implement changes through small experiments.

7. Focus on Continuous Delivery

The objective is to deploy small, incremental changes frequently. To achieve this, the Product Owner must groom the top priority features to ship as soon as they are ready.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Scrumban

Now that you have a better understanding of what the Scrumban methodology is all about, let’s look at its pros and cons.

Advantages of Scrumban

The Scrumban methodology has several notable advantages including:

1. Increased Flexibility

Scrumban is more adaptable than Scrum since teams aren’t locked into rigid sprints. Work can be pulled continuously into the workflow as capacity allows. This makes Scrumban more responsive to changing priorities.

2. Focus on Flow

WIP limits and continuous pull optimize the flow of work rather than the utilization of resources. This smooth flow enables faster delivery of completed work.

3. Team Autonomy

Self-organizing teams pull in work themselves, which increases motivation. Scrumban teams are also empowered to improve their own processes.

4. Easy to Adopt

Since Scrumban isn’t as prescriptive as Scrum, it can be adopted more easily. The lightweight framework presents less of a shift for teams new to Agile.

Disadvantages of Scrumban

However, there are some potential downsides when it comes to Scrumban including:

1. Lack of Structure

For some teams, Scrumban may not provide enough structure and cadence as the key Agile rituals present in Scrum are optional.

2. Loose Prioritization

The continuous flow could lead to loose prioritization if the Product Owner doesn’t maintain a sharply focused backlog.

3. Compliance Challenges

Scrumban’s flexibility could make compliance more difficult in regulated environments that expect defined processes.

4. Lack of Ownership

Since anyone can pull in work as capacity allows, it can be difficult to pinpoint accountability for certain tasks.

Scrumban Board

The Scrumban board provides a visual representation of the workflow and stages each work item progresses through which enables transparency into the team’s process.

Common columns on a Scrumban board include:

  • Backlog: Prioritized list of items to work on
  • To Do: Work items pulled into the initial stage
  • In Progress: Work being actively handled
  • Testing Items: undergoing QA testing
  • Done: Completed work items

The Scrumban board shows all items in each stage, allowing you to easily identify bottlenecks. Work in Progress (WIP) limits are displayed per column to constrain the amount of work flowing through each step.

The Product Owner prioritizes the Backlog while the team pulls work into the To Do column as their capacity allows, while new items enter when WIP limits permit.

The Scrumban board provides visibility into throughput and flow. This allows the team to optimize their process for continuous delivery.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is an Agile framework that aims to manage work by visualizing workflow and limiting work in progress (WIP). Originally developed at Toyota, Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal.”

With Kanban, the team maps out the process stages on a Kanban board. This provides full visibility into the workflow. As work is completed in each stage, it is “pulled” into the next stage on the board.

New items can only be pulled into the beginning of the workflow when there is available capacity within the predefined WIP limits to ensure that teams don’t get overburdened and focus on finishing existing work first.

Cycle time, or the time to complete each work item, is measured and optimized to enhance flow, while process policies are evolved collaboratively to address bottlenecks.

Principles of Kanban

The Kanban methodology is based on several core principles. These are:

  • Visualize the Workflow: The Kanban board visually maps out each stage of the process and the work flowing through it. This transparency allows teams to view progress and identify issues.
  • Limit WIP: Work in progress limits are established for each workflow stage which prevents bottlenecks by limiting the amount of work starting versus finishing.
  • Manage Flow: The focus is on smoothing and optimizing the end-to-end flow of work items. So, teams analyze cycle time metrics and address areas slowing the process.
  • Explicit Policies: Any Kanban process policies are made explicit so that all team members understand how work should flow through the system.
  • Implement Feedback Loops: Reviews and retrospectives gather feedback on improving team productivity, effectiveness, and workflow.
  • Continuous Improvement: The team continuously tunes and improves the Kanban process through experiments, metrics analysis, and addressing bottlenecks.
  • Focus on Delivery: Fast cycle time to completion is emphasized as the primary goal is to finish existing items before pulling in new work.
  • Team Autonomy: Team members self-organize to pull work into the flow as capacity permits rather than having work pushed onto them.

How to implement Kanban

Here are the key steps to follow to implement Kanban:

1. Map the Workflow

The first step is to visualize the team’s workflow on a Kanban board. This typically has columns like “To Do”, “In Progress”, “In Testing”, and “Done”. The board should represent the actual steps and stages.

2. Define WIP Limits

Analyze throughput data to establish appropriate Work In Progress (WIP) limits for each workflow stage. Start with smaller limits and expand later once the process is smooth as too much WIP causes bottlenecks.

3. Implement Pull Scheduling

Team members pull work themselves as capacity allows rather than having work assigned to them. New items are only pulled into “To Do” when WIP limits allow it to promote a focus on finishing existing work first.

4. Optimize Cycle Time

Measure the cycle time for work items to be completed across the workflow. Then identify slow stages and address issues to improve flow as faster cycle time translates to faster delivery.

5. Make Policies Explicit

Document the team’s process policies and service level agreements (SLAs) for how work should flow through the system and ensure these are communicated to everyone.

6. Hold Standups

Conduct regular standup meetings for the team to discuss blockers, identify dependencies, and update the status on the board.

7. Retrospect and Improve

Have regular retrospectives to discuss continuous process improvements. Small changes are made to optimize productivity, quality, and flow through the system.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Kanban

Similarly, the Kanban methodology has its pros and cons.

Advantages of Kanban

Kanban offers several benefits including:

1. Enhanced Visibility

The Kanban board provides transparency into the team’s workflow and work items by ensuring that everyone can see the state of each task.

2. Improved Flow

WIP limits improve flow by preventing bottlenecks. New work is pulled in only when there is available capacity which smooths cycle time.

3. Flexibility

Kanban is adaptable to changing priorities. Work items can be easily reprioritized or new urgent tasks added to the top of the backlog.

4. Increased Collaboration

Regular standups enable collaboration by allowing teams to identify blockers and dependencies which improves knowledge sharing.

5. Faster Delivery

By focusing on work item flow, optimizing cycle time, and an emphasis on output rather than utilization, teams can deliver faster.

Disadvantages of Kanban

However, Kanban also has some potential downsides including:

1. Lack of Cadence

Without fixed Sprints or iterations, some teams struggle with the lack of structure. There is no fixed planning or delivery cadence.

2. Difficulty Tracking Progress

Progress tracking in Kanban lacks clear milestones. Since work is continuous, it can be hard to identify what should be completed by when.

3. Loose Prioritization

The backlog must be actively groomed and prioritized to prevent important items from falling through the cracks in the continuous flow.

4. Team Coordination

Kanban’s flow-focus means teams must proactively coordinate across workflow stages to identify dependencies.

Scrumban vs Kanban: Key Differences between Scrumban and Kanban

While Scrumban and Kanban share some similarities, there are several notable differences including:

Cadence and Structure

Scrumban provides more structure as it incorporates basic Sprints and iterations like Scrum, while Kanban focuses solely on continuous flow.


Scrumban uses Scrum roles like Product Owner and cross-functional teams. Kanban teams on the other hand are more fluid and collaborative.


Scrumban has scheduled planning sessions to prioritize the backlog while Kanban is more reactive, with no fixed planning cadence.


Scrumban allows better tracking of item progress through workflow stages whereas Kanban offers less visibility into incremental progress.

WIP Limits

Both utilize WIP limits, but Scrumban has a limit on how many items can be pulled into the full workflow. In contrast, Kanban’s WIP limits are per column.


Scrumban measures average cycle time as the key metric while Kanban focuses on item-level cycle time and throughput trends.

New Work

In Scrumban, new items are pulled in during planning sessions. Conversely, Kanban pulls new work continuously as capacity allows.


Scrumban utilizes estimation for capacity planning while Kanban does not require item estimation.

Delivery Cadence

While Scrumban spaces out planning and delivery in Sprints or milestones, Kanban focuses solely on continuous, optimal flow.

When to Use Scrumban vs Kanban

Choosing between Scrumban and Kanban depends on your team’s context and objectives. Let’s look at scenarios where either methodology is ideal.

When to Use Scrumban

Scrumban is optimal in these scenarios:

  • Your team needs more structure than Kanban provides. The Sprints and cadence help to keep the work focused.
  • You have complex workflows spanning multiple teams. Scrumban gives visibility into handoffs and dependencies.
  • Your work has lots of coordination overhead. Scrumban’s structure facilitates alignment.
  • You want a fluid process but with more structure than pure Kanban. Scrumban provides guardrails.
  • Your team is transitioning from Scrum to Kanban. Scrumban allows for gradual change.
  • You want to limit WIP across the entire workflow, not just per stage like in Kanban.

When to Use Kanban

Kanban excels in these situations:

  • You have an unpredictable or interrupted workflow. Kanban adapts seamlessly to change.
  • Your team already has a smooth workflow. Kanban will optimize rather than disrupt it.
  • You want to focus on improving your existing processes rather than imposing new ones.
  • Your work varies substantially in size and effort. Kanban allows any work item size.
  • You have an expert team that doesn’t require much structure or oversight. Kanban facilitates autonomy.
  • Compliance is critical and you want to avoid rigidity that could create violations.

Summary of Scrumban vs Kanban

By now you should have a solid understanding of Scrumban and Kanban methodologies having learned the key principles, implementation practices, benefits, and downsides of each framework.

Most importantly, you should be able to discern when Scrumban is optimal for providing structure alongside optimized flow versus when Kanban’s pure focus on continuous delivery and maximum flexibility would be preferable.

Armed with knowledge of these popular agile methods, you can choose the right approach based on team needs and objectives.


Is Scrumban a Pull System?

Yes, Scrumban utilizes a pull system for bringing new work into the workflow.

Does Scrumban Have Sprint Planning?

Scrumban incorporates lightweight Sprint planning compared to traditional Scrum. There is a planning cadence but no fixed-length sprints.

The Scrumban team holds condensed planning sessions to groom the Product Backlog and pull in enough items to work on until the next planning session. However, the plans are flexible rather than committed.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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