What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organisations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems. It is simple to understand, yet difficult to master.

Scrum implements the scientific method of empiricism to help people collaborate to do complex work. This is work where there is a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability and therefore the probability of change is high. An empirical approach helps us find answers to the issues that emerge in these complex environments.

Scrum is not a methodology. It does not have all the answers to all the problems you will encounter when developing a product. It requires those who use it to engage their brains and find the majority of their own answers to the problems.

No methodology or framework could have all the answers to developing products in complex environments where things are constantly and inevitably changing. Requirements, technology, practices, market forces, economics and regulatory factors — to name but a few things that cannot be completely controlled, despite our best efforts.

Instead, Scrum is a minimal set of rules that guides peoples relationships and interactions. It will help you develop a Product and expose your biggest issues as early as possible. By discovering the big issues early you can work to solve them while you have time and resources on your side. Scrum is best described as a problem finding framework!

Scrum helps you to present a true and transparent picture of your current ability to develop your Product. These truths can sometimes be painful to acknowledge, but should not be ignored.

Software development is a prime example of complex work and it is from here where Scrum emerged in 1995. In the years following, the use of Scrum grew rapidly.

Scrum co-creators, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland wrote the first Scrum Guide in 2010 to explain the rules of Scrum in order to prevent some common miss understanding and miss-representation of Scrum.

The Scrum Guide is great, but it is not so easy to read and understand for those new to it all. You can find the Scrum Guide at scrumguides.org. So what is Scrum?

Scrum is comprised of 3 Accountabilities, 3 Artifacts and 5 Events. There are also additional rules and guidelines detailed by the framework. The fundamental unit of Scrum is a small team of people, a Scrum Team.

Inside the Scrum Team, there are 3 accountabilities. These are:

  1. Product Owner
  2. Scrum Master
  3. Developers

Scrum Teams are self-managing and cross-functional. Self-managing teams internally decide who does what, when, and how. Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work, without depending on others outside of the team.

Scrum’s artifacts represent work or value to provide transparency and opportunities for inspection and adaptation. The Scrum artifacts are:

  1. Product Backlog
  2. Sprint Backlog
  3. Increment

Each of the artifacts in Scrum contains a commitment to them which bring transparency and focus to the artifacts:

  • The Product Backlog has the Product Goal
  • The Sprint Backlog has the Sprint Goal
  • The Increment has the Definition of Done

The Scrum events are used to provide opportunities for Inspection & Adaptation. The five Scrum events are:

  1. The Sprint
  2. Sprint Planning
  3. Daily Scrum
  4. Sprint Review
  5. Sprint Retrospective

Scrum contains specific rules that used correctly can enable greater Agility.

Scrum is the most widely used approach to become more Agile. Scrum is not the only way to be Agile and Scrum does not in itself guarantee Agility. Like any tool, it is what you do with it that makes the difference.

Scrum was very attractive to me when I first came across it. It can help you learn fast, collaborate effectively, lower risk and deliver more value to your customers early and often. Here are some of my top tips for using Scrum:

  • Follow the rules of Scrum which will act as guard rails to help you safely learn and adopt a new approach to doing complex work.
  • Foster an environment where the values of Scrum & Agile are understood, respected and enacted.
  • Take an empirical approach to your work, build trust and learn fast.
  • Stay close to your customer and release value to them as early and often.
  • Simple!

And Scrum is (or should be) simple! Unfortunately, it has been made complicated for many. Not any more. We are here to simplify Scrum for you.