Should Teams Use Kanban, Instead of Scrum or LeSS?

Register: Sunday, September 19, 2021. 12:00 PM EST: Can Kanban be used with/instead of LeSS or Scrum? WHO is asking and WHY?

Can Kanban be used in conjunction with LeSS (or instead of LeSS)?– this is the question that we hear all too often.

Since LeSS is Scrum (nb: organizational design impact of LeSS is much stronger), perhaps, the above question can be also re-phrased into:  Can Kanban be used with Scrum (or instead of Scrum)“?

First, we need to understand what is the reasoning behind this question. What makes Kanban more attractive than Scrum to people?

Here are some possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: Kanban greatly increases efficiency of work management, by its focus on:

  • Increased transparency of workflow (“vacuum bubbles” and congestions)
  • Explicitness of WIP limits and one-piece workflow management
  • Throughput-based forecasting
  • Queueing Theory and Little’s Law
  • SLA-level escalation (e.g. L1-L3) mechanism
  • Enterprise-wide Convergence and divergence of flows
  • Management of Lead Time, Cycle Time, aging etc
  • Balance between holding costs vs. shipment costs
  • Batch-size optimization vs. capacity utilization


Scenario 2: Kanban is simple and too forgiving, with respect to:

  • NOT mandating a customer/feature-centric way of working
  • NOT mandating a real Product Owner and product definition
  • NOT mandating  a dedicated full-time Scrum Master
  • NOT mandating  cross-functional, self-managed teams
  • NOT mandating  commitment and participation by a business community (e.g. Product Owner, users and customers)


The first scenario implies that we really value some of the goodness that Kanban brings to the table, most of which could be still swiftly leveraged within every sprint: by a single team (Scrum) or by up to eight teams (LeSS).

The second scenario implies that we are looking for short cuts, for “forgiveness” – NOT to address organizational design challenges that Scrum (and LeSS) expose. Going immediately, to ‘Plan B’ (Kanban), because it is simpler, easier to fit in a current organizational construct, electronic tooling, etc…. instead of trying to understand why Scrum (or LeSS) does not work, would most likely mean that soon even Kanban’s light rules will be also compromised.

Scrum is a light framework, used by single team to develop a product. LeSS is Scrum-based organizational design framework that enables large-scale, lean and agile product development by up to eight teams (NB: In LeSS Huge, more than eight teams work within separate product requirement areas – and it may involve hundreds of people).

Both, Scrum and LeSS  require a clear product definition, well defined priorities (vision, strategy), well -focused customer-centric approach and dedicated engagement by business and technology.

Making a right decision around choosing Kanban over Scrum (or LeSS), requires good understanding and seeing a distinction between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 above.

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