Kanban vs. Scrum: What’s the Difference?

Kanban is a visual system for managing work. It visualizes both the process and the actual work passing through that process. The main objective of implementing Kanban is to identify potential bottlenecks in the process and fix them. Kanban goal is that work flow should proceed smoothly at an optimal speed.

Kanban is a methodology centered around visualizing tasks, while Scrum is a methodology that structures workflow and team culture to deliver projects in short timelines. Kanban delivers tasks continuously until the project is finished, while Scrum delivers chunks of deliverables in one- to four-week periods.

Scrum vs Kanban – What’s the Difference? + FREE CHEAT SHEET

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a method for managing and optimizing a companys workflow. It is a set of particular concepts, roles, tools and events that can help a business build useful products quickly and fix product issues. Teams use scrum to design and release a version of a product, monitor stakeholder responses to it, make adjustments as needed and repeat the cycle. These short development cycles are called sprints. Working in frequent increments allows teams to refine their product often.

As another type of Agile framework, Scrum focuses on continuous reflection, learning and improvement. It also emphasizes self-organizing and collaboration within teams. In the early 1990s, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland developed the Scrum framework, named after a rugby term, to provide a helpful structure for organizations to accomplish complex projects. While Scrum has a specific structure, companies can tailor it to their unique needs.

Here are the primary components of Scrum:

Scrum artifacts

Scrum artifacts are the tools that teams use to organize tasks and include:

Scrum team

While Scrum emphasizes the importance of cross-functional teams, it also features specific roles, including:

Scrum events

Scrum events are the principal parts of scrum and include:

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a visual method used to manage workflow, emphasize the importance of visualizing the work process, minimize waste, maintain efficiency and deliver high-quality products to customers. As a type of Agile and Lean framework, it involves conducting a short production cycle, releasing products incrementally and adapting products based on customer feedback.

In the early 1940s, Taiichi Ohno developed the first kanban system to improve the production process for Toyota. Kanban, a Japanese word for “visual signal,” “billboard” or “signboard,” emphasizes clarity and transparency. Organizations in many industries now use Kanban to organize their work, particularly in information technology, software development and research and development. Some defining components of Kanban include:

Kanban board

A Kanban board is an essential component of the Kanban process. The chart, typically digital but sometimes physical, represents a teams workflow. Digital Kanban boards let team members check the status of any project at any time and from any place, edit it and see project updates in real-time. Its accessibility makes kanban a central hub of helpful, accurate information and a tool for collaboration.

A Kanban board helps teams visualize and track their progress on projects and show status updates to stakeholders such as investors. They can organize their tasks in whichever categories fit their objectives and identify backlogs or congestion in a step of production. For example, if there is a backlog in the “In Progress” category, a company may need to allocate more resources to those tasks or move them back to the “To Do” list.

Here is an example of a Kanban board:

Definition of workflow (DoW)

The DoW defines key parts of the Kanban workflow. It illustrates what units are moving through the board, what “started” or “finished” means and how long it should take for an item to progress through the columns.

Just-in-time manufacturing

WIP limits

Kanban teams limit their work in progress (WIP), or the number of tasks in their “In Progress” category, to a manageable amount so they can focus on one task at a time. By eliminating the distractions that may come with multitasking, team members can often complete tasks faster, conduct shorter cycles of production and deliver products more quickly. Since market and customer needs fluctuate, short production cycles can make it more likely that a product is current, competitive and useful to customers.

Differences between Kanban and Scrum

Kanban is a project management method that helps teams visualize tasks while Scrum is a method that provides structure to a team and schedule. Many companies use hybrid models of Scrum and Kanban to organize and optimize their task completion.

While Kanban and Scrum are both Agile frameworks that focus on splitting complex projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, here are several differences between the two methods, including:

Key concepts

Both Kanban and Scrum have key principles, also known as pillars, but they are different. Kanban promotes effectiveness, efficiency and predictability. Scrum focuses on transparency, adaptation and inspection.

Time limits

Scrum prescribes smaller, fixed-length durations to keep operations quick and efficient. Scrum teams have 15-minute daily stand-ups, two-week sprints and four-hour retros. They keep their work periods the same length so they can learn their average speed of completing tasks.

In contrast, Kanban doesnt have strict time-boxed periods but focuses on continuous workflow. Instead of time, they limit the number of tasks in progress to shorten the production cycle.

While Scrum teams may work on multiple tasks at once, Kanban teams typically work on one task at a time.


A Kanban board is used throughout the lifecycle of a project. It is flexible with tasks and timing, allowing tasks to be reprioritized, reassigned or updated as needed

A Scrum board has a set number of tasks with strict deadlines for completion. It is cleared and recycled after each sprint.


While kanban uses status updates and cumulative flow diagrams to measure individual progress on a task, it rarely involves a metric for tracking an entire team or companys performance.

Scrum teams use story points and velocity charts as metrics. Story points are numbers that describe a task’s difficulty, and velocity charts measure the number of tasks a team completes in each sprint. The more tasks a team completes in a sprint and the harder the task is, the better the team is doing.


Since Scrum involves a lot of structure and several categorical concepts, including time-boxed events like sprint reviews and specific roles like Scrum master, it can be a significant cultural shift for a team. For example, a team may have to adjust to the pace of having a daily 15-minute stand-up meeting.

Kanban is less structured and more open to interpretation, allowing a team to make changes gradually without disrupting current systems. A company can begin instituting a Kanban board and cards with little to no overhead.


Software development teams often favor the Scrum method because it allows them to update products such as applications for users. They can use the Scrum process to fix product bugs and implement interesting features that a market needs.

Service-oriented teams such as IT often favor Kanban because it can help a company optimize its physical manufacturing process to minimize waste.

Tips for deciding between Kanban and Scrum

Many teams start with either Kanban or Scrum as a single workflow method. They then move on to implementing parts of each to best meet their needs. Here are some tips for deciding which method is right for you:


Is Kanban better than Scrum?

Kanban helps visualize your work, limit work-in-progress (WIP) and quickly move work from “Doing” to “Done.” Kanban is great for teams that have lots of incoming requests that vary in priority and size. Whereas scrum processes require high control over what is in scope, kanban let’s you go with the flow.

How is kanban different from Agile?

Agile process focuses on constant communication whereas Kanban process have shorter sprint lengths forced to break up items to fit within sprint boundaries. Agile process allows Iterative Development whereas Kanban process does not allow Iterative Development.

Is Jira a Kanban or Scrum?

Since Jira version 7. x, Jira Agile has become Jira Software, which is a tool developed by Atlassian and designed to support Agile methodologies – both Scrum and Kanban – within Jira. It enables project teams who are already using Jira to adapt to Agile practices, the easy way.

Do kanban have sprints?

Kanban does not have or require a sprint. The framework uses different methods and tools like the Kanban board to address Scrum’s sprints’ benefits. The Kanban has continued, smooth workflow with work items at various completeness stages, and the only time limits are business deadlines.

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