Shifting from Scrum to Kanban

My team had been following (more or less) the Scrum process for two years. The Scrum rhythm of biweekly planning, demo, and retrospective with daily stand-ups served us well most of the time. However, we have since shifted to a process that looks more like Kanban. 

The Transition

We had the most friction with the Scrum process after initial releases when our focus turned more toward support and training of our customers. The two-week planning cycle does not accommodate this kind of reactive, responsive work. The dissonance between our stated process and the reality of the work day felt like a process breakdown even though what we were doing was clearly the most important thing for out team. It tended to make everyone a little cranky. Since agile is all about inspect and adapt and choosing a path that gets results, it was time for some adapting.

Our Flavor of Kanban

Unlike Scrum, which has identified creators and a set of doctrines that define orthodoxy, Kanban is more loosely defined. Our idea of Kanban starts with Scrum and and makes a few modifications.

We no longer plan a sprint. We simply pull stories from the backlog as we need more work to do. The VersionOne storyboard gives us a visual of how many items are in each status, and we only pull in a new story if the inventory level are low across the board.

Instead of planning for an entire day before a sprint, we now plan stories whenever the backlog of planned stories is low (less than a few days worth). We still demo the product and hold retrospectives every two weeks.

Since we no longer have sprint boundaries, we needed to make some changes to the way we integrate stories so that we always have a potentially shippable product. We now do all story or defect development on an activity branch in the repository and only merge back to the trunk after it has been thoroughly tested. This creates a bit of new overhead, but we’ve found it worth the effort.

Result

Now we are able to be responsive to new items that come in. The development team feels less jerked around when support issues come in and priorities change. We’d all like to get back to pure product development, but better to face reality as it is than to pretend it is something it is not.

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