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How Agile Can Work For You: Scrum & Kanban

In part one of our Agile series, we introduced the concept of Agile working, and outlined the values underlying the process. It is not a rulebook, or a rigid set of practices, but rather it is a solid foundation for building a more flexible working environment. So, what exactly is involved in this new way of working, and how can we start to implement? There are two main practices is Agile working; Scrum and Kanban.

Scrum

The scrum methodology is probably the most popular and commonly used throughout all of the scrum practices. Scrum is based on a practice that involves isolating two-week periods called ‘sprints’. Sprints are sequential periods of time, with one immediately following the other. Before a two-week sprint begins, the team will have a sprint planning meeting to decide on the tasks and projects they will focus on during that period.

Holding the team accountable to the process is the ‘scrum master’ – not the manager of the team, but a team-member whose responsibility it is to ensure the team stays on track and abides by the agile values and principles.

The team will choose tasks from their backlog, a long list of tasks which works as a to-do list. During the sprint planning meeting, the team will select the most important / time sensitive tasks from the backlog to focus on during the next sprint. One the tasks are selected, the team will commit to completing these tasks, and only these tasks, during that two-week period.

The tasks are then organised by their priority, as well as how much time the will take to compete. The tasks will each have an owner, responsible for ensuring the task is completed within the sprint timeframe. Finally, each task is assigned a point value which corresponds to the size or difficulty of a task. 90 to 100 points per sprint is usually a reasonable amount, and the scrum master will be experienced in understanding the point value of tasks. Tasks are assigned using the Fibonacci sequence (1 2 3 5 8 13 21…) as opposed to the value increasing one number at a time. It’s easier to decide if a task is a 5 or an 8, for example, than to decide between 5 and 6. This makes the decision making process easier on the scrum master.

One the sprint is in place, all tasks are either ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’, or ‘done’, giving visibility to management on how the workflow is coming along.

Kanban

In a lot of ways, Kanban is very similar to Scrum, but there are some notable differences.

Kanban doesn’t involve a two-week sprint. Work is continuous with no blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks. Instead of a scrum master, an Agile Coach will oversee the tasks of the team. The agile coach decides on the amount of tasks, or points, that a team can carry at a given time, and assigns these individually. Once a task is complete, a new task of similar weight can be taken on by the team or individual, ensuring that the team doesn’t end up with too much on their plate at a time.

Like in scrum, tasks will be organised into ‘to-do’, ‘in progress’, and ‘done’. When a task is completed, another task from the backlog will replace it in the ‘in progress queue’ depending on its size and priority.

Understanding the way your team works best is essential before deciding on which practices to use from the Agile theory. Production teams might work perfectly in a scrum system, whereas marketing teams who often face ad-hoc requests might benefit from the flexibility of the Kanban system.

Look out for the next in our agile series on the SocialTalent blog. Want to step up your training and become an Agile master? talk to us about our actionable, easy to use training on this and all aspects of hiring and work. Click the link below to find out more.

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