Transitioning: Waterfall to Scrum vs Waterfall to Kanban?

Mixing techniques of product development can be a major headache to a product manager; should you use simply the normal scrum or agile techniques, or can those be combined with others. This often leads to questions that people pose like this:

“I have always believed that the “Agile Adoption” is easier when we transition from Waterfall > Kanban. But now, after some recent experiences, I feel like it is Waterfall > Scrum. Which one is truly the best way to get stuff done?”

To start with, the agile principles that you choose will all be the same in any framework; if you choose to use a Waterfall, Kanban, or Scrum method framework, you will still be set up just fine if you choose to use agile within that framework. There is no hard-and-fast rule that says that you cannot start out with a Scrum framework and then transfer to a Kanban framework at the end either; it all depends on what your priorities are and what you need done. These frameworks are tools for you to use; they are not laws that you will be punished for breaking. If you follow the underlying principles of each way of doing things but adapt as needed, you will be fine.

Most often, it is easiest to transfer from Waterfall to Scrum to Kanban. Kanban takes the most team maturity and the most self-motivated people. If the team does not have a sold grasp of all of the basics of the development process at the beginning, going right from Waterfall to Kanban could do damage to the whole process.

Waterfall is much more structured, and has more oversight. The Scrum technique uses more autonomy, but the team leader still checks up on the progress and oversees the process. In the Kanban process, you have to be self-motivated and work without a coach telling you what to do. Although this is almost every developer’s dream, no developer will be employed for long if they don’t turn out the products that the owners and investors want.

In conclusion, it is best to go from Waterfall, to Scrum, then to Kanban as needed. Skipping a step has potential to churn out a subpar product in the end. It is better to gradually give freedom, rather than all at once!