Scrum: Everything You Need to Know

Scrum is a product management framework developed by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. It’s an iterative and incremental approach to the development of products.

Scrum teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. They involve all the skills needed to build a product or service. Scrum teams are also time-bound with specific goals and objectives for each iteration or sprint.

In this article, we will discuss what scrum is, the scrum framework, the scrum of scrums, the three pillars of the scrum, and the five scrum values.

What Is Scrum?

Scum is an agile-based framework that relies on interactions between team members over meetings to coordinate and complete a sprint. Scrum identifies new updates, manages backlogs of prioritized features, and shares knowledge about successes and gaps learned from the previous run. 

Scrum’s main focus is to plan the work effectively.

A lightweight framework, scrum lets people work productively and creatively on meaningful tasks. It delivers products of the highest possible quality along the way.

It’s common to confuse scrum and agile. The difference is that scrum is a type of agile framework organized by the scrum master.

Scrum shows team members how to contribute their time during each phase. This minimizes waste while considering constraints like customer feedback throughout product development cycles.

Its focus starts with continuous learning that takes into account changing factors. There’s also the acknowledgment that team members don’t know everything at the start of the project.

With re-prioritization built into the process, product teams learn and improve through short release cycles to adjust for changes.

Scrum is like a recipe. It doesn’t have to be followed exactly, but it has core principles that will make your dish better. 

However, every chef – or in this case organization – has a slightly different way of executing it.

Iterative and Incremental

Scrum is both iterative and incremental.

Iterative decision-making repeats rounds of analysis to come closer to the desired result.

Iterative decision-making in scrum brings closure on decisions with each round of development. It takes the team one step closer than before.

Incremental innovation, meanwhile, is a series of small improvements to an existing product. It maintains and improves the product’s competitive position over time.

It’s often used by companies who continue improving their products with new features desired by consumers. Incremental innovation happens through releases in smaller batches for testing purposes.

The Scrum Framework

The scrum framework brings your product from an idea to completion.

The dynamic list of tasks keeps things organized and shows where progress is being made.

It provides transparency for customers so they are always in the loop on new developments with their favorite company or brand.

What Is a Scrum Team?

The scrum team is made up of developers, the product owner, and the scrum master.

Developers, also known as the scrum development team, have different skill sets. No one person becomes the bottleneck in delivering work to completion.

The developers drive the plan for each sprint by forecasting what they can complete over a fixed length.

Scrum product owners are champions for their products. They’re focused on understanding the business, customer, and market requirements. They prioritize tasks for the scrum development team.

Scrum product owners build a product backlog of what needs to be completed

To make sure that every project is accounted for, they partner with stakeholders so they understand the backlog. 

They give clear guidance on which items need to be delivered next as well as when the product should be shipped. The more frequent, the better.

Keep in mind, the product owner is not always the product manager. Their focus is on making sure the development team delivers as much value to the business as possible. And most importantly, there needs to only be one product owner.

Lastly, scrum masters are the champions for scrum within their teams.

They coach and support product owners, other team members, and external stakeholders on how to make sure that they’re practicing agile methods effectively.

An effective scrum master deeply understands the work being done by everyone involved. 

They also know where potential bottlenecks may arise, so they help optimize transparency within the team. This ensures everyone is able to deliver what was planned at each sprint meeting or stand-up call.

The scrum master also plans needed resources (both human and logistical) for sprint planning, stand-up, sprint review, and sprint retrospective meetings.

What Are Scrum Artifacts?

There are three scrum artifacts: product backlog, spring backlog, and increment. 

They help manage the work and assist the team in displaying its plans and progress. All team members and stakeholders can see what they need to accomplish.

For each scrum artifact, there is an associated scrum commitment that ensures quality and keeps the team focused on delivering. The scrum commitments are the product goal, the sprint goal, and the definition of done.

The product backlog is the primary list of work that needs to get done by a person in charge.

This is a dynamic list of features, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that can be used as input for sprints.

The team’s to-do list evolves because members learn more or market shifts happen. This changes what items are relevant.

The scrum commitment for the product backlog is the product goal. To plan the work for each sprint, teams must have an idea of their product’s objective. Each team needs to have multiple product goals over their lifetime, but the focus needs to be on one at a time.

This differs from sprint backlog, which is the list of items, user stories, or bug fixes selected by the development team from the product backlog for implementation in a sprint cycle.

They’re chosen before each sprint cycle at a meeting called “sprint planning.” The fundamental goal of any given project cannot be compromised during this process. It covers what exactly needs to get done and how much time should go into accomplishing that.

The scrum commitment here is the sprint goal, which is the purpose of the sprint goal. This goal helps everyone focus on what needs to be done and why.

Lastly, the increment is the end goal of a sprint. It can be referred to as done, an epic completed successfully, or the team’s definition of done.

The definition of completing the sprint hinges on what the sprint is for. If it’s for a larger product, you can complete a sprint without shipping the product. You can still work in sprints, but your definition of “done” might be finishing a part of the larger product.

Keep in mind that the longer it takes your team to release software, the higher the risk that the software will miss the mark.

The scrum commitment here is the definition of done. This means that when a product increment is delivered, it is marked as “done” according to what has been defined as “done” by the team. 

This ensures the standard of quality is met and can differ between organizations and teams.

Scrum Events

The scrum framework is a set of sequential events that teams perform on a regular basis.

They are backlog grooming, sprint planning, the sprint, the daily scrum, sprint review, and the sprint retrospective.

These rituals are where we see the most variation for different team types. It can be difficult to know which ones will work best for your own company’s needs. Some find doing them time-consuming, but others use them as important check-ins.

We recommend starting out by performing each ceremony with every sprint until you have an idea of what works best for your team. You’ll have enough information from testing before making any permanent changes.

Backlog Grooming

Backlog grooming is the job of a product owner

The product owner’s main responsibility is to drive the project towards its vision and have an understanding of what customers want.

They maintain this list using feedback from users, development team members, and anyone else who has input on how it should be prioritized or maintained. You can read more about backlog grooming here.

Sprint Planning

The planning meeting is the place where every development team member voices their opinions on what needs to be in the sprint.

This includes choosing goals that can realistically get accomplished in a specific timeframe. Adding any new or existing user stories from the product backlog – which are always aligned with the sprint goal – is part of the meeting, too.

Every scrum participant should have clear expectations of how to deliver these goals. It’s not just about getting things done quickly, but also making sure quality remains at its best.

Sprint planning should address the following topics:

Why is this sprint valuable?

What can be done in this sprint?

How will the chosen work get done?

A maximum of eight hours should be allotted for a one-month sprint, with shorter sprints requiring less time.

Sprint

A sprint is a short period of time during which the scrum team works together to finish an increment.

A typical length for a sprint would be two weeks, though some teams find it easier to scope work in one week or deliver valuable increments over 30 days.

The more complex unknowns there are in your plan, the shorter you should have each iteration. Everyone will know what they’re working on at any given moment and can adjust when necessary.

All events, from the planning to the retrospective, happen during the sprint.

The time interval for the sprint needs to be consistent throughout the development period. The team can learn from past experiences and apply their insight to future sprints.

Daily Scrum

The daily scrum is a quick meeting, also known as a stand-up, that happens at the same time and place every day.

The goal of this super-short meeting is for everyone on your team to share what they are working on, stay aligned with sprint goals, and give each other ideas about how to spend the next 24 hours.

The stand-up is the time to voice any concerns you have with meeting the sprint goal. You can bring up anything that is blocking you from accomplishing the goal.

A common way to conduct a stand-up is for every team member to answer three questions in the context of achieving the sprint goal:

What did I do yesterday? What am I doing today? Are there any obstacles?

However, we’ve seen that these meetings can turn into people not getting much work done because all their focus is on what happened days ago or on tomorrow’s plan.

If this is happening, don’t be afraid to change things up by asking different types of questions. It’ll make your meeting more engaging and exciting.

Sprint Review

The scrum team presents their work to key stakeholders and progress toward the product goal is discussed.

The event gives everyone an opportunity to see what was accomplished during the sprint. Members also provide feedback on how to make changes or additions going forward.

Approximately four hours should be allotted for sprint review for a one-month sprint. Less time should be dedicated to the sprint review for a shorter sprint.

Sprint Retrospective

The scrum team inspects how the last sprint went with regards to individuals, interactions, processes, and their definition of done.

Inspected elements often vary with the domain of work. Assumptions that led them astray are identified.

The scrum team discusses what went well during the sprint, what problems it encountered, and how those problems were (or weren’t) solved. Additional items or new solutions are added into the backlog for the next sprint’s agenda.

The scrum team identifies which changes will have the highest impact in future sprints.

For a one-month sprint, a maximum of three hours is allotted. For shorter sprints, the event is shorter.

What Is a Scrum of Scrums?

The scrum of scrums is a virtual team consisting of delegates with embedded links to the originating delivery teams.

They reduce communication paths and ensure that each product will be delivered in its most integrated form. 

This means there’s no need for additional release management because all value has been built into one cohesive whole!

This approach is typically used as a first step to scale agile and organize the delivery of larger and more complex products.

The newly formed scrum of scrums team is composed of members from each relevant department. It delivers an integrated, potentially shippable product at the end of every sprint.

More roles might be required like architects or quality assurance leaders to have a seamless delivery process.

Other new roles that are derived from the scrum of scrums model include a new position called, you guessed it: the scrum of scrums master.

This person should focus on progress and impediment backlogs visible to other teams. It’s the same thing as a scrum master with a larger scope.

They facilitate prioritization or remove impediments. The scrum of scrums master improves the effectiveness of their team’s meeting.

The Three Pillars of Scrum

The three pillars of scrum are transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Transparency

Scrum reviews provide transparency.

Team members involved in the decision-making process must have visibility of the current state of the product.

Everything that happens in development should be shared.

Scrum’s frequent reviews give team members and stakeholders a clear view of the state of the project.

Teams move quickly since everyone knows what needs to be done next.

Inspection

Scrum reviews and retrospectives offer inspection opportunities.

To prevent deviation from the process and end product, people need to inspect what is being created and how it’s made.

Scrum teams are self-reflecting and improving. 

Teams inspect their completed work at the end of every iteration during sprint reviews. This ensures teams always improve on what needs to be done next for a better outcome. 

This is why scrum retrospectives happen after each sprint review.

Adaptation

Scrum teams can adapt the product at the end of every sprint.

When the process or product is not performing as it should, changes need to be made quickly.

This makes scrum a system of work that allows for plenty of adjustments at the end of every iteration.

The Five Scrum Values

According to the Scrum Guide, the five values that all scrum teams share are commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

Commitment

The scrum value of commitment is essential for building an agile culture.

Scrum and agile teams trust each other to follow through on what they say they’re going to accomplish.

When members are uncertain about what they should be doing, scrum teams ask questions and reassess their tasks. This prevents overcommitment.

Scrum teams only agree to do work when it’s clear how much can get done within a given timeframe. This keeps teams committed to their promises.

The scrum master reinforces a team’s commitment when they’re in a sprint. They also protect the team from the pressure of product owners.

Courage

Scrum team members must have the courage to say “no” and speak their minds, even when they feel uncomfortable.

To have an agile culture, scrum teams should question conditions that hinder success. This includes questioning company practices or policies if necessary.

Great scrum masters foster team courage by creating a safe environment to have difficult conversations.

They also stand up to stakeholders who try to change priorities during a sprint or create new side projects within a sprint.

The best scrum masters advocate for every team member’s voice to be heard.

Focus

The scrum value of focus is one of the best skills for an agile team to develop.

Focus means that whatever a scrum team starts, they finish. It’s important to limit what you’re working on at any given time (limit WIP).

Great scrum masters always encourage team focus.

They do this by holding the team accountable. They enforce participation in each daily scrum meeting and make sure that only completed work is presented at sprint reviews.

Openness

Scrum teams seek out new opportunities to learn while being honest when help is needed.

Great scrum masters are always open about how a sprint is going, even if it’s not easy to admit.

They encourage openness with daily scrums and retrospective meetings. Everyone on the team can share feedback openly.

In turn, they make sure stakeholders know what’s happening to give constructive criticism or offer help when needed.

Respect

Scrum team members show respect to one another, the product owner, and stakeholders.

Scrum teams know that their strength lies in how well they collaborate. Everyone has a distinct contribution toward completing the work of each sprint.

They give permission for others to give ideas. They also recognize accomplishments made by all teammates.

Great scrum masters develop respect in their teams by encouraging team members to share struggles and successes.

They also point out moments of strong collaboration. This encourages new ideas that grow even more successfully in future sprints and projects.

Conclusion

When Jeff Sutherland co-created the scrum process in 1993, he borrowed his naming from an analogy put forth by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka when they compared high-performing cross-functional product development teams to rugby players who used a scrum formation.

Ending the article on a fun fact seemed fitting.

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