Kanban vs Scrum: A Guide To Help You Choose

Many project managers wonder which is best in the kanban vs scrum debate. Both kanban and scrum are great for agile teams, but they offer distinct approaches to organizing, executing, and optimizing teamwork.

Both have their pros and cons and work better for different types of projects. Using the wrong approach can put projects at risk. That’s why understanding the differences between kanban and scrum practices is crucial to success as a project manager.

In this article, we explore how the scrum and kanban methodologies operate, their distinct pros and cons, and when to use each.

Kanban vs Scrum


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To determine which is right for your project or team, consider how the kanban and scrum PM methodologies differ in terms of flexibility, timeframes, roles and responsibilities, visibility, prioritization, and feedback.

Comparison Factor Kanban Scrum
Approach Continuous flow focused on completing work at its own pace. Iterative, structured into fixed-length sprints.
Flexibility High—allows for immediate changes and additions. Moderate—changes are generally made between sprints.
Timeframes No defined timeframes, work progresses continuously. Defined short sprints, usually one to four weeks long.
Roles & Responsibilities No set strict responsibilities; more fluid and flexible. Defined roles (Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team).
Workflow Visibility High, with work visualized on kanban boards. High, with work tracked on scrum boards.
Prioritization & Scheduling Based on current demand and capacity, work is pulled as capacity allows. Work is planned and prioritized for each sprint based on the backlog.
Feedback & Adjustments Continuous, with changes made as needed. At the end of each sprint, during the sprint review and retrospective.
Ideal Project Type Projects with varying priorities and volumes. Projects with clear objectives and stable requirements that fit into time-boxed cycles.

What is the Kanban Method?

Trello's Kanban boards
Trello features intuitive, inexpensive, and powerful kanban boards


Kanban practices help teams manage workload with transparency and efficiency. The kanban principles and workflow emphasizes continuous improvement, adaptability, and a clear visualization of the entire workflow.

How Kanban Works

How Kanban Works

  • Kanban tools represent tasks visually as cards, each with critical information needed to complete the task, such as a description, links to important resources, and visual aids.
  • Cards are arranged on a “kanban board,” which is divided up into columns. One column could be “To Do,” the next, “In Progress,” “Review,” and “Delivered.” Each column represents a different stage of work.
  • The kanban board helps teams visualize tasks, limits the amount of work in progress at any time, and makes it easy to manage flow. It also allows for easy identification of dependencies.
  • Only a certain number of cards are allowed in each column at any given time. These restrictions are known as “Work-in-Progress Limits.” WIP limits help teams allocate resources effectively, maintain strict focus, and boost productivity.
  • The team focuses exclusively on tasks currently in progress, and project managers can reorder tasks in the “To Do” column without disrupting ongoing work.
  • Once a task is completed and moved off the board, the next task is moved in from the backlog or “To Do” column. The average time it takes for a card to move through the kanban board is known as “Cycle Time.” Reducing this metric by boosting efficiency is an important project management goal in kanban.

“Swimlanes” offer additional ways to organize work. They are horizontal divisions on a kanban board that categorize tasks by different projects, teams, or work types to enhance organization and visibility.

Organize your work with Swimlanes
Use swimlanes to separate teams, workflows, assignees, and more.


When to Use Kanban

When to Use Kanban

Use the kanban method when:

  • Dealing with ongoing, evolving projects that require continuous delivery
  • Flexibility and real-time changes are priorities, and
  • The focus is on efficiency and reducing bottlenecks rather than on fixed timelines or complex, long-term planning.

Pros and Cons of the Kanban Method

Here are the key advantages and limitations of employing the kanban methodology:


  • Focus on the tasks at hand for optimal productivity
  • A project manager can heavily control workflows
  • Offers a high degree of flexibility
  • Focuses on continuous, timely delivery, great for software development teams


  • The kanban methodology lacks defined timeframes
  • Kanban lacks a structured planning phase
  • Kanban work needs ongoing monitoring and adjustments

What is the Scrum Methodology?

Scrum Methodology shown in ClickUp
ClickUp Scrum Board


Scrum is a structured agile project management framework that facilitates collaboration and efficiency among teams.

How Scrum Works

How Scrum Works

  • Work is organized into “Sprints”: Fixed periods (usually one to four weeks) dedicated to completing a set amount of work.
  • Each sprint begins with a sprint planning meeting where the scrum team selects tasks from the product backlog. This is their “Sprint commitment.”
  • The “scrum board,” as with kanban boards, is a visual tool used to track progress and tasks during a sprint. It typically includes columns such as “To Do,” “In Progress,” “Testing,” and “Done,” representing the stages of task completion.
  • The scrum framework emphasizes regular updates and adjustments. Daily scrum meetings ensure the team is aligned and any obstacles are quickly addressed.
  • At the end of each sprint, there’s a sprint review meeting, during which the team demonstrates completed work to stakeholders and a retrospective meeting to discuss what went well and what could be improved.
  • Scrum enforces time-boxed iterations and strict responsibilities such as “Product Owner,” “Scrum Master,” and “Development Team,” creating a structured project management environment that promotes focus, accountability, and continuous improvement.
  • A “Sprint Backlog” holds the selected tasks for the current Sprint, allowing teams to focus solely on the sprint’s goals, enhancing productivity and clarity.
  • The time from the start to the end of a sprint is known as “Sprint Cycle Time.” Reducing this metric through improved processes and teamwork is a key goal in scrum.
When to Use Scrum

            When to Use Scrum

            Here’s when you’ll want to be choosing scrum:

            • For projects that benefit from a structured approach with clear phases
            • For agile teams that work well with set roles and regular milestones
            • When there’s a need for frequent reviews and adjustments based on stakeholder feedback

            In the kanban vs scrum debate, scrum principles are particularly useful in environments where requirements are known and stable enough to plan work in fixed cycles.

            Pros and Cons of the Scrum Methodology

            Here are the key advantages and limitations of using this agile framework:


            • Scrum provides clear, time-boxed periods (sprints)
            • The end-of-sprint reviews allow for regular assessment and adaptation
            • Specific roles like “Scrum Master” make responsibilities clearer
            • Sprints enable teams to focus on specific deliverables


            • Less flexibility as tasks can’t be added to or removed
            • There’s potential for over-planning
            • Tight deadlines can lead to stress, burnout, and errors
            • Feedback loops can be delayed until the end of a sprint


            EDITOR’s CHOICE

            Monday – Affordable, Easy to Use, and Powerful

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            • Generous Free Plan
            • Powerful Workflow Automation

            Project management is more than a set of complex tasks; it’s a strategic endeavor that shapes the way teams collaborate and achieve goals. In this article, we’ve explored the intricacies of scrum and kanban, offering insights into when each methodology shines.

            You’ll want to implement kanban for continuous, flexible projects where priorities shift, and scrum principles for more structured projects with clear phases and fixed requirements.

            The choice between kanban vs scrum hinges on your project’s nature, your team’s dynamics, and your strategic goals. That said, you could even opt for a hybrid method that uses both scrum and kanban.

            Finally, regardless of your chosen project management method, be sure to use the right project management software. This will help you streamline processes, foster collaboration, and propel your team toward achieving its objectives and completing projects on time.


            How is kanban different from scrum?

            Is kanban better than scrum?

            Which is more disruptive: scrum or kanban?


            1. 4 Important Kanban Principles (Project Management Academy)
            2. Project Management and Agile (PMI)

            Related Reading

            Christian Rigg
            Business Management Expert
            Christian Rigg
            Business Management Expert

            Christian holds a BSc in Psychology with an emphasis on organizational management and is the current Head of Operations for Eleven Media, where he oversees day-to-day business operations, manages a team of project and account managers, and otherwise greases the sticky wheels of company-wide collaboration. Prior to this, he managed operations for a hotel chain in the South of France while completing a Masters in History. When not geeking out over automations and data analysis, he can usually be found cycling and hiking around the French Riviera.