What is Scrum?

05 Apr 2023

Scrum in the context of Agile.

Scrum is one of the earliest agile frameworks to be developed.

It was developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early 1990s, and formally pitched as enabling product development teams to ‘do twice the work in half the time’ in 1995.

The primary value proposition of scrum, back in the early 1990s, is that it helped software development teams create short feedback loops and adapt to what was most valuable based on reviews, feedback, and data.

In short, empiricism or empirical process control.

Make things transparent, inspect them frequently, and adapt as necessary.

At the time, we had:

  • Crystal
  • Extreme Programming – which was THE main agile framework for software engineering.
  • Scrum.

Extreme programming really challenged a lot of team behaviours because it mandated the necessity of teamwork to produce a valuable product. You couldn’t produce great work in a vacuum, you needed a team to collaborate and co-create the best solution possible.

Things like the daily meeting with the team, regular reviews and feedback from customers, and so forth all originated from Extreme Programming and were embraced by scrum.

Scrum influences.

Scrum cocreator Jeff Sutherland was a fighter pilot in the US navy, and as a fighter pilot, he was well versed in the value of OODA loops. OODA stands for observe-orient-decide-act. These short feedback loops empowered fighter pilots to continuously adapt and respond, in high pressure environments, and use that data and experience to continuously improve and evolve.

Ken Schwaber, the other cocreator of Scrum, was a Master Mariner. A sailor. And so that meant that he was also well versed in observation and response techniques to guide the vessel to the right destination despite significant and continuous disruption.

A north star that stays true regardless of the storms you navigate or the circumstances you face.

Both men worked with software development teams and played a leading role in helping the teams get their projects back on track, and aligned with specific customer objectives, regardless of the changes they may need or the disruption they might encounter.

It is the early influences of agile frameworks, combined with their own deep expertise in observe and respond techniques, that led to the development of the scrum framework.

Scrum Certifications.

Both men had strong ambitions to help guide software development teams toward product development enlightenment, and away from traditional project management practices, and so they developed the training and certification bodies known as the scrum alliance and scrum.org.

The certification bodies did not just teach scrum, they actively empowered people to perform the roles (now called accountabilities) such as scrum developer, scrum master, and product owner.

An entry level qualification, such as the Certified Scrum Master or Professional Scrum Master course was developed followed by more advanced courses such as the Advanced Certified Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Master II and III courses.

Empiricism is the process of learning through doing and reflecting on what you have learned to develop a plan for continuous improvement. If the certification bodies prepared you for the role, then learning on the job would advance your skills and capabilities, and more advanced courses would pave the way to mastery whilst you were embedded in your career.

The Scrum Guide

In 2009, Ken and Jeff collaborated to write the scrum guide, a definitive overview of the scrum framework, the responsibilities and roles, and how each of the events contribute to success in a scrum environment.

There have been multiple edits to the scrum guide, with the latest version being posted in 2020.

The scrum guide defines the rules of the game. How scrum should be deployed and implemented, and how to get the best out of the agile framework. How best to serve customers and the organization via each of the accountabilities described in scrum.

Scrum developer, scrum product owner, and scrum master.

Scrum speaks to a single team, comprising a maximum of 10 people, committed to a product goal or product vision in service to the customer and the organization. There are no rules for scaling scrum nor is it advised in the scrum guide.

One product development team. One product backlog. One customer purpose.

There are agile scaling frameworks such as Nexus, LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) to name a few, but the scrum guide makes no mention of them despite Jeff Sutherland being the creator of Scrum@Scale, a scaling framework for scrum ????

Scrum Artefacts

There are three scrum artefacts, each supported by a commitment.

  • Product Goal supports the sprint goal.
  • Product Backlog supports the sprint backlog.
  • Definition of Done supports the Product Increment.

Scrum Events

There are five scrum events, each with a timebox ( a do not exceed time limit), to ensure that work is completed. The ruthless focus of scrum is delivering a working, valuable product to a customer in short, sharp burst of development known as sprints.

  • Sprint – a period of one to four weeks where the team commit to delivering a working product to a customer or product stakeholder.
  • Sprint planning – a timebox where planning for the sprint takes place.
  • Daily scrum – a daily meeting with the developers, time boxed to 15 minutes.
  • Sprint Review – customers are presented with the product or feature and actively review.
  • Sprint Retrospective – the team come together to identify how they can improve in future.

Scrum focuses on time as an enabling constraint to get something valuable produced.

Scrum is deeply aligned with the agile values and principles, and is deeply committed to creating products and services that delight customers, consistently and continuously.

That’s why it has become the most popular agile framework in the world and has proven its worth in multiple applications, in multiple geographies, across multiple cultures around the world.

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