Organizations around the world use agile project management methods designed to keep teams focused and goals reached quickly. However, within the Agile family of processes, there are two major approaches: kanban and scrum. Understanding how these approaches differ can help your team determine which is best and help you decide whether learning one of the methods will help you as an employee and leader.

At University of Phoenix, teaching methods and practices that improve performance is a top priority. That approach has led the University to offer a self-paced professional development course called the Fundamentals of Scrum to help managers deliver better outcomes.

Understanding Agile

Agile is an approach to project management that helps organizations manage in-house projects with improved efficiency, leading to earlier project completion. It’s often used to improve the cycle time for internal processes or accelerate the reduction of backlogs.

While initially introduced in the development processes for software, today agile is used across business types and for various business needs. It has become a powerful way for organizations to continuously improve and achieve while surrounded by the typical volatility and noise of the business world.

Understanding Kanban and Scrum Methods

Both kanban and scrum are effective methodologies that help with reducing cycle time and speeding up progress. However, there are key differences. Here’s a closer look at each.


Kanban is a popular methodology used frequently for software development. Its name comes from the Japanese term for visual board. The process was introduced in the mid-20th century on Toyota assembly lines to assist in scheduling manufacturing processes.

To be successful, the framework requires real-time communication and full transparency. Work items are visually represented on a kanban board, which allows team members to see where every part of the work process is at all times.


Scrum is a highly adaptable problem management process led by a trained scrum manager, or master. Scrum management is offered by University of Phoenix.

This approach usually results in less stress, fewer problems and a higher degree of successful outcomes. It can be most helpful when a team comes up against an issue it had not foreseen or the work that a project is creating is not what was expected. The scrum process is responsive to these unexpected issues.

Differences Between Kanban and Scrum

Where Kanban and Scrum differ greatly is in the time constraints used. The best way to understand these differences is to explore several components of each methodology.

  • Timing. Scrum is focused on fixed-length sprints, typically 14 days at a time. Kanban is a more open-ended approach to project management, focusing instead on overall progress and a hard deadline.
  • Roles. Scrum team members are given specific roles and, at times, titles. Kanban is more flexible about the roles and tasks team members take on. It may also shift people during the course of a project to address different needs.
  • Boards. Scrum boards are usually broken down into to-dos, tasks in progress and completed elements. Kanban boards are similar with a queue, work in progress and completed list.
  • Goal Posts. Scrum project managers or senior leaders determine if a product is ready to be released. In kanban projects, goal posts can vary based on project goals and may include release dates or be indefinite while the team works on multiple projects.
  • Conclusion. When a sprint concludes, the scrum board also ends, ideally with the project completed. Kanban boards can vary in terms of closure based on the project. Following the completion of work, there may be other steps necessary such as editing or quality assurance testing.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIS). Scrum KPIs are usually measured by deliverables, effectiveness and turnover. Kanban KPIs typically include lead times, cycle times, number of tasks in progress and the number and scope of issues.
  • Success. Scrum defines success by prioritizing speed and efficiency. Kanban approaches success through quality and thoroughness.

How to Choose Scrum or Kanban

Scrum is considered a more structured, formalized methodology while Kanban is often viewed as more relaxed since it includes less criticality among team members, even those working on a project full time.

Scrum can be the best approach for organizations that need to focus on one core project or several important projects with a set deadline. It’s also an effective process for collaboration and provides fast feedback loops on processes, products or services. Scrums also hold teams accountable with more frequent meetings, often daily, that lend transparency.

Kanban is considered the better choice for visual learners, those who focus on metrics and projects where timelines are more flexible.

Learning Scrum

University of Phoenix offers aspiring scrum masters a fully online non-credit professional development course called Fundamentals of Scrum. The 30-hour self-led course covers the concepts, practices and principles of scrum and how scrum masters can improve project and team effectiveness.

The course also covers common terminology in agile and scrum project management, how to explain the fundamentals of agile methodology to other team members and how to advocate for using agile methodology. Students can learn how to plan sprints, set goals, facilitate daily meetings and lead scrum reviews. Putting skills to practice, they also complete a successful sprint as part of a class project.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix provides degree programs, courses and certificates focused on non-traditional adult learners. Founded in 1976, the University uses a primarily online learning platform to provide adult students with the flexibility, support and tools for success.

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