Scrumming into the Unknown – When Kanban and Waterfall May be the Solution


Scrum is a popular Agile methodology known for its ability to manage and adapt to changes and evolving requirements through the use of sprints and incremental deliveries. However, it’s not always the best fit for every project. Before choosing Scrum, it’s essential to evaluate whether the given approach aligns with your project’s specific needs and objectives, and to consider alternative methodologies such as Kanban or Waterfall, which may be more appropriate for your project. 

1. Lack of Predictability

Scrum’s iterative and incremental approach to project management can be seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows for flexibility and adaptability to changing requirements and priorities. This is done through the use of sprints, where a small piece of functionality is delivered after a timeboxed period, usually 2–4 weeks, and with the potential for the backlog and deliverables to change during the project. However, this approach can make it difficult to commit to fixed deadlines and deliverables, which can be a deal-breaker for projects that require a high degree of predictability and control. In these cases, the Waterfall methodology may be more appropriate, as it follows a linear and sequential process that allows for better control over time and resources. The Waterfall model is based on a sequential design process, where each phase must be completed before moving on to the next one. This means that the project requirements are set before the start and are frozen during the project. So the stakeholders know exactly what they are going to get and when they are going to get it, which can be important in projects where the requirements are well-known and well-defined.

2. Inflexibility

Scrum is based on a set of defined roles, events, and artifacts that need to be followed in order to implement the methodology correctly. These include roles such as the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development team, events like sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and retrospective meetings, and artifacts such as the product backlog and sprint backlog. However, this structure can also be seen as inflexible and not adaptable to different projects and teams. In contrast, Kanban focuses on visualizing and managing workflows, which can be adapted to the specific needs of a project or team, making it more flexible. Kanban is based on the visualization of work and flow of work, it focuses on controlling the flow of work and using metrics to visualize the work progress and quality. Kanban can be used to identify and optimize bottlenecks in the process and to improve the flow of work.

3. Limited scalability

Scrum is designed for small-to-medium-sized projects and teams, and it can be challenging to scale it to larger projects or organizations. The overhead of maintaining the Scrum framework, such as sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and retrospective meetings, can become overwhelming as the project and team size increases. Kanban, on the other hand, is more scalable and can be adapted to large or complex projects, and it’s often used in conjunction with Scrum in a hybrid approach called Scrum-ban, which can be effective in larger projects and organizations. By using Kanban’s visualization and flow approach in combination with Scrum’s time-boxed sprints, you can have the best of both worlds and overcome the limitations of both methodologies. 

4. Time-consuming

Scrum requires a significant investment of time in planning and review meetings, such as sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and retrospective meetings. These meetings are crucial for the proper functioning of the Scrum framework, as they ensure that everyone is on the same page, that progress is being made, and that any issues are identified and addressed. However, they can also be time-consuming, and this can be a problem for teams that have limited time, or that need to move quickly. Kanban, on the other hand, focuses on continuous delivery and improvement, which can be more time-efficient. Kanban does not prescribe specific time intervals for planning or reviews, which can make it more suitable for teams that need to move quickly or have limited time.

5. Heavy focus on sprints

Scrum’s sprints can sometimes limit the flexibility and responsiveness to change in projects, but still they are the backbone of Scrum, and the entire methodology is built around them. However, this can make it difficult to adapt to changes in priorities or requirements, especially if the sprint is already in progress. On the other hand, Kanban focuses on the flow of work, which means that it can be more adaptable to changing priorities or requirements. With Kanban, you can add, move or remove items from the workflow as needed, allowing for more flexibility in managing change.

6. Not suitable for projects with a predictable workflow

Scrum is built around the idea of a constantly changing backlog, which may not be suitable for projects with a predictable workflow, such as manufacturing or production lines. Kanban, with its focus on visualizing and managing workflows, can turn out to be a better fit for these types of projects. This methodology is based on pull-based work, where work is pulled into the system by the team as they have a capacity for it, this ensures that the team is never overwhelmed and they can focus on maintaining the flow and quality of the performance.

7. Can lead to scope creep

Due to the iterative and incremental nature of Scrum, it can be difficult to keep the scope of a project under control. If the project is not well defined, and the stakeholders are not well aligned, it can lead to a situation known as “scope creep”, where the goals expand far beyond the original objectives, which can lead to delays and increased costs. To avoid this, it’s important to have clear and well-defined requirements and to involve all stakeholders in the planning and review process.

Scrum: what to consider


In conclusion, choosing the right methodology for your project can be a challenging task. It’s important to consider the strengths and limitations of each and how well they align with the specific needs and objectives of your project. The key is to be flexible and to tailor the right technique to the project, not the other way around. It’s important to understand the context and to adapt it to the project specifics. Always remember that there is no perfect methodology, and it’s important to be open to experimenting with different methodologies, and even combining them in a hybrid approach, to find the best solution for your specific project. 

It’s also important to be aware of the potential pitfalls and to learn from real-life examples of projects that may have encountered difficulties when using a specific methodology. Always consider teams’ and stakeholders’ capabilities, the project’s environment, its specific goals and priorities, and the type of work you’re trying to accomplish before selecting a methodology. 

In order to make the right choice and ensure success, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of each methodology and to be open to experimenting and adapting different approaches to the specific needs of your project. 


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