Changing Your Agile Practices: A Story of Shifting from Scrum to Kanban

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Our latest experience report, From Scrum to Kanban – A Team’s Journey, is by Aki Namioka of Marchex. Her team had been using Scrum for over two years. Like many folks, they had their own twist to how they practiced Scrum. They had adopted some standard XP practices but also used a Kanban-style whiteboard to visual their stories’ progress.

But then the nature of their work changed. They were assigned to developing a new product. And their tried-and-true Scrum practices didn’t work so well in this new context.

The backlog was in constant flux as the understanding of what their new product should be kept changing. Constantly reprioritizing the backlog caused a lot of planning churn.

The team found it harder to accurately to size their stories as they were using unfamiliar technology. Consequently, they didn’t meet their sprint targets. They became discouraged.

Another team working on the new product was already using Kanban, and they were happy with it. They also had a reputation for being consistently productive. So Aki decided to transition her team to Kanban, too.

But her team didn’t disband everything they had been doing. They kept what they considered valuable practices and adapted them to this new way of working.

They still estimated stories using story points, but at the same time they worked on defining smaller, more manageable stories.

Aki Namioka's team at Marchex transitioned from Scrum to KanbanThey shed some baggage, too: they eliminated two-week sprints and focused on delivering software more predictably. They found themselves spending less overall time planning than previously. They held weekly retrospectives, but found by breaking their planning and retrospective into separate meetings that each was more productive. They shifted the focus of their daily standups from reporting daily status to discussing how to move current stories across their Kanban board.

These are seemingly subtle shifts. But each added up. The team got their mojo back and morale improved. After nine months of working this way, they can’t imagine going back to their old ways of working.

If you find yourself doing the same Agile practices and they seem less effective, maybe it is time for you to make changes. Having an Agile mindset frees you to try out new ways of working. Aki’s team was primed for change and had strong support from other groups and management.

If you have stories about how you've refreshed your Agile practices, I’d like to hear about them! You too, could be an author and contribute to the Agile Experience Report program.

 

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