I am new to Scrum and Kanban. So far, I understand that the Task Board is something that is originally from Kanban, but I am using an online Scrum tool that also also offers that board.

Is the Task Board with columns like "To-Do", "Doing", and "Done" the only thing in Kanban? Is it actually a part of modern Scrum?

6 Answers 6


Being new to Agile can be overwhelming with all of the different terminology that you hear getting thrown around. I had difficulty grappling with these two words in particular at first, as well.

I'll try to lay out the major methodological differences, without getting into the philosophy, where I'm not quite so strong.


  • Teams work in sprints, usually 1 to 4 weeks long.
  • Tasks or User stories are tracked on a task board. Traditionally this is three columns, such as "To do", "Doing", "Done"
  • There are well defined roles for a Scrum Master and a Product Owner


  • No sprints, work is continuous
  • Tasks or User Stories are tracked on a task board
  • The task board may have any number of columns corresponding to the state of the task ie. Backlog, Planned, Development, Testing, Done.
  • Swimlanes may be added, cutting across the columns, to differentiate between types of tasks or priority
  • Each column has a work in progress limit, for example a team may agree that no more than 5 tasks can be "in Testing", before a new task is added. If a column becomes overloaded, the team will swarm to help clear out the testing work, before adding new tests.

The most evident differences then are the design of the task board and the use of the sprints. Other philosophical differences accompany either one. Both have been around for a while, but Kanban's background is in lean manufacturing, and is only recently being brought into the Agile Software toolbox.

There is no reason that a Kanban board can't be used within the Scrum methodology to get better tracking of where each task is. This is commonly referred to as Scrumban.

  • Became too long for a comment. See answer.
    – Josh Bruce
    Apr 10, 2013 at 22:35
  • Great answer. Really helped make the differences clear.
    – Andrew
    Oct 13, 2014 at 0:30


It is important to differentiate between kanban (the artifact) and Kanban (the methodology).

Kanban Defined

A kanban is actually just a sign-board. In many agile methodologies, a kanban is used to hold kanban cards, which generally contain user stories. In manufacturing, the kanban cards are a signal to pull parts or supplies into the process at the point where a card is encountered.

The Kanban methodology (as used in software development) generally uses a kanban holding kanban cards, but Kanban itself is in fact a full-fledged process framework based around pull-queues.

Kanban and Scrum Aren't Synonyms

While most agile frameworks share commonalities, they aren't interchangeable. Scrum and XP teams often use kanban boards as iconic artifacts within their process, but their use is not required practice.

Scrum is an agile framework primarily based on time-boxed iterations, while Kanban is generally based on continuous queue-based flow. Both methodologies have adherents, but pragmatic practitioners often borrow specific practices from other agile methodologies, which is why kanban boards are so often seen in Scrum implementations.


The task board is actually not part of Scrum. Scrum is a framework, primarily with a project management style (time/deadline) focus, which defines three named roles, two backlogs (sprint and product), four meetings, and various time-boxes for each event. Beyond that, the field is open to the team to determine what the best way to get the work done is, as they are self-organizing and self-managing.

The Kanban board comes from Lean Manufacturing concepts (which did inspire the developers of Scrum) and is used to measure, monitor, and improve the flow of work through a process. They also attempt to minimize work in progress by limiting the number of cards which can be in given step of the process as well as how many cards each team member can work on at a given time.

Some teams, using the Scrum framework, use Kanban boards during their sprints as an information radiator to those interested parties who want "the status" of the team - and team members in general. These people can walk by the board (transparency is a big deal in Agile) at any time and get a feel for what is happening. However, the tool itself is not a strict part of Agile (preferring "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools") nor Scrum ("a small baby process") specifically.

Hope that helps.







Kanban is a set of three (and just three), simple, rules:

  • visualize the workflow - use the board and map your processes into columns (in the simplest case: To Do, Doing and Done),
  • limit WIP (Work In Progress) - Kanban limits WIP per workflow (for example you can limit number of items in your Doing column to one - the whole team can work only on one item at a time),
  • measure the lead time - average time to complete one item.

There's a very good book (available for free) by Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin: "Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both" (http://www.infoq.com/minibooks/kanban-scrum-minibook). It explains all differences between Scrum and Kanban in a very clear way.


In Kanban there is no task board. The visualise the workflow principle suggests to so the current state of the work items, which can be user requests, bugs, features or user stories. Moreover, in Kanban you don't visualise a team's work, but the whole organisation. Here is an example:

Kanban on organisational level

Additionally, Kanban should visualize the whole process, because this is the place where it can help the most. Don’t get me wrong, it is also fine to have Kanban on the team level, but the real optimization and improvement should happen on the highest possible level.

A more interesting fact, that there is no Kanban board at Toyota. They use a Heijunka board which looks similar to our Kanban boards, but it is used for signalling: knowing that something is wrong or can be improved.

The boards in different Lean/Agile/Kanban approaches look the same, but their purpose is different (Agile: tracking, Lean: signalling, Kanban: improving). Therefore if you look at a certain board, it is good to know which method the owner of the board is using.


Aside from the other answers mentioned in this post, there some more differences between Scrum and Kanban which could give a clearer view of their differences.


  1. Estimation - must be done before each sprint
  2. Performance metrics - burndown charts
  3. Task size - the size that can be completed during a sprint
  4. Board - no items can be added/changed during a sprint. After the sprint the board is defined/reset.
  5. Fit for - teams working on a product or project which is longer than a year.


  1. Estimation - optional
  2. Performance metrics - Cumulative flow diagrams, lead time, cycle time
  3. Task size - any size
  4. Board - new items are allowed (depends whether queue allows it). The board stays persistent
  5. Fit for - Support and maintenance teams, continuous product manufacturing

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