Kanban and Scrum are Verbs, Not Nouns

Is it just me? The Kanban community folks appear to encourage and be fond of bashing Scrum. This is unfortunate since the Kanban and the Scrum are so closely related. These are not distant cousins but rather, brothers. They both encourage a generative flow of We.

Positioning Kanban as superior to Scrum and vice-versa is contributing to a sense of meaningless around the word Agile. Agile is beginning to mean “whoever had the biggest ego and yells loudest. Whoever can grab the socio-apparatus of the Agile community (The Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, the conferences etc) to steer them. Whoever can advocate their position even louder and more convincingly.”

Exhibit A is the artificial debate between which is better for Agile teams: Kanban or Scrum. Yes, Scrum fails in some organizations and does not  create much improvement in results. Kanban also suffers from these failures, typically in the same organizations.

In general, any failures of either are related to the culture in the implementing organization. In either case, Scrum and/or Kanban, the organizations doing the implementation need pain-killing drugs (commonly called a prescription) and a doctor (commonly called a coach). If they do not need a prescription or a doctor (to help them heal) they’d already be healthy, right?


Language is the Key

In the post The Flow of We I discuss nominalization, the act of changing verbs and adverbs (and other kinds of words) into nouns. Click the link to learn about it. We all do it all the time. It creates space to compare, contrast, disagree, and debate. Naming people, places and things is the primary way we make sense of the world we live in.

Scrum and Kanban are most useful to us in the English language when referred to as verbs, not nouns. We Scrum, and we Kanban. When we Kanban, We pay attention to the flow of work items through our group. We work with upstream and downstream partners to increase the flow of value. When We Kanban we increase the flow of We, by paying attention, as a group, to things that matter, like work items, classes of service, cycle times etc.

Likewise, we Scrum. When we Scrum, we first agree to some basic understandings, about roles and meetings and rules. Then We Scrum. When We Scrum, We open conversational space to discuss the actual details of requirements. We time-box most of these discussions. After We do some work, We reflect formally during a meeting We call “the Retrospective”. We also timebox this meeting.

Scrum is a verb. We Scrum. Kanban is a verb. We Kanban.

The Kanban community already realizes this, well below the level of collective awareness. What, you disagree, and do not think so? Guess again.

Check out this poster and slogan again, it says:

[Yes] … we Kanban. THAT is using the word Kanban as a VERB.





Post Script: 3 hours later, I already got three emails on this from folks out there. Moral of story: language matters.