One common question that arises when we start a Kanban implementation is if we won’t lose track of the macro roadmap of our product due to Kanban’s continuous flow. It’s generally accepted that Scrum forces the Product Owners to plan some sprints ahead and also to have a release plan for his product, while Kanban don’t prescribe sprints nor release plans. Well, the answer to this question is: yes and no.
Yes, we can lose track of the macro roadmap of our product due to Kanban’s continuous flow, because Kanban offers this degree of freedom. It’s also this freedom that enables Kanban to be used in a lot of contexts, like the one of infrastructure teams, where they don’t have a roadmap to follow, but mostly incidents to solve.
And no, we can still keep track of the macro roadmap of our product using Kanban with two different approaches. The first one is by forcing the Kanban work items to be features, or better yet, MMFs, instead of small tasks, so that our entrance queue becomes a roadmap. We can also control the size of our entrance queue with a max limit and we can have a rule stating that we should not have less than N features on it at any time. This will force a roadmap and yes, you will still be doing Kanban. Another approach is to use Kanban with iterations, instead of continuous flow, thus forcing the planning of your iterations and maybe forcing a release plan, too. And yes, Kanban don’t prescribes continuous flow, too!
Doing Kanban with iterations is usually called Scrumban.