People are the focus of Scrum.
Scrum organizes projects using cross-functional Scrum teams, each one of which has all of the capabilities necessary to deliver a piece of functionality from idea to delivery.
The Scrum framework guides the creation of a product, focusing on value and high visibility of progress. Working from a dynamic list of the most valuable things to do, a Scrum team brings that product from an idea to life using the Scrum framework as a guide for transparency, inspection, and adaptation. The goal of Scrum is to help teams work together to delight your customers.
Scrum Framework: At a Glance is a visual guide showing how all the pieces work together.
The Scrum Team
A Scrum team has three accountabilities:
- Developers - Anyone on the team that is delivering the work. The name may be misleading but includes any team with members in roles outside of software development
- Product Owner - Holds the vision for the product and prioritizes the product backlog
- Scrum Master - Helps the team best use Scrum to build the product
The Scrum team works together to achieve a shared goal and deliver value to users of their product or service.
Scrum artifacts help manage the work:
- Product Backlog - An emergent, ordered list of what is needed to improve the product and includes the product goal.
- Sprint Backlog - The set of product backlog items selected for the sprint by the Developers, plus a plan for delivering the product increment and realizing the sprint goal.
- Increment - A sum of usable sprint backlog items completed by the Developers in the sprint that meets the definition of done, plus the value of all the increments that came before. Each increment is a recognizable, visibly improved, operating version of the product.
The team displays its plans and progress so that all team members and stakeholders can always see what the team is accomplishing.
Not to be confused with one of the Scrum values, each artifact has an associated commitment that ensures quality and keeps the team focused on delivering value to its users.
- Definition of Done - When the product increment is delivered, it needs to be “done” according to a shared understanding of what “done” means. The definition of done is meant to ensure that the standard of quality is met and can differ between organizations and teams.
- Sprint Goal - A specific and singular purpose for the sprint backlog. This goal helps everyone focus on the essence of what needs to be done and why.
- Product Goal - To plan the work to be done each sprint, teams must have an idea of their product's overall objective. Each team may have multiple product goals over its lifetime, but only one at a time.
Related Article: Sprint Goals Provide Purpose
Scrum includes five events, sometimes called activities or ceremonies, that occur inside each sprint.
- The Sprint - The heartbeat of Scrum. Each sprint should bring the product closer to the product goal and is a month or less in length.
- Sprint Planning - The entire Scrum team establishes the sprint goal, what can be done, and how the chosen work will be completed. Maximum of 8 hours for a month-long Sprint. Shorter timebox for shorter sprints.
- Daily Scrum - The Developers inspect the progress toward the sprint goal and adapt the sprint backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work. May include Product Owner or Scrum Master if they are actively working on items in the sprint backlog. Maximum of 15 minutes each day.
- Sprint Review - The entire Scrum team inspects the sprint's outcome with stakeholders and determines future adaptations. Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the increment.
- Sprint Retrospective - The Scrum team inspects how the last sprint went regarding individuals, interactions, processes, tools, and definition of done. The Team identifies improvements to make the next sprint more effective and enjoyable. This is the conclusion of the sprint. Maximum of 3 hours for a month-long sprint, shorter timebox for shorter sprints.
Scrum accountabilities, artifacts, and events work together within a Scrum cycle. Each sprint should bring the product closer to the overall product goal.
What About Product Backlog Refinement?
Refinement is a continuous activity used to add details, estimates, and order to items in the product backlog. The team can meet if they feel a recurring meeting is necessary - sometimes done once per sprint or per week - but some teams find making refinements as needed is sufficient.
What is a Sprint?
Scrum teams work in short timeframes called sprints. Sprints can be as short as one week or as long as one month. Sprints happen one right after the other, with no breaks, to maintain a steady project cadence.
Each sprint begins with a plan and ends with a review of the work completed and an additional review of the way in which the team worked together. (See events to learn more)
During each sprint, the entire Scrum team works together to complete one or more increments of a larger overall product or project. Each completed increment must be potentially releasable, meaning that it could theoretically be delivered as-is. In other words, each increment must be fully tested and fully approved by the end of the sprint.
How Do Sprints & Increments Allow Scrum Teams to Inspect and Adapt?
The idea is to deliver small batches of functionality that stakeholders can see and inspect at the end of every sprint. Then, based on that feedback, the Scrum team can adapt their plans for the next batch of functionality. By learning early what works and what doesn’t and whether an increment matches stakeholder expectations, the Scrum team is ultimately able to deliver a full product that both satisfies and also delights customers.
How Do Sprints Reinforce the 3 Pillars of Empirical Process Control?
Remember that the 3 pillars of empirical process control are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Breaking work into short timeframes increases the number of opportunities for the Scrum team (including the Product Owner) to inspect the product and adapt what is built moving forward. A traditional 6-month waterfall project typically has only 1-2 stopping points, milestones, where the stakeholders can inspect the work--and very limited and expensive chances to adapt.
A 6-month project using an agile framework like Scrum, however, typically has 6-12 opportunities to inspect and adapt the work, depending on how long each sprint is.
These end-of-each-sprint opportunities to inspect and adapt also increase transparency because stakeholders and senior management are invited to view and give feedback on what is being created at the end of every sprint, which translates into as often as every week or at worst every month.
For more on the theory behind Scrum’s inspect and adapt and empirical process control activities, see Scrum Theory.
Though Scrum began as a way to develop software, Scrum is currently used in a variety of industries to successfully deliver all kinds of work products.
How it All Works Together
The Product Owner defines a vision using information from stakeholders and users. They identify and define pieces of value that can be delivered to move closer towards the Product Goal. Before the Developers can work on any pieces of value, the Product Owner must order the backlog so that the team knows what is most important. The team can help the Product Owner further refine what needs to be done, and the Product Owner may rely on the Developers to help them understand requirements and make trade-off decisions - this is where refinement becomes an important tool for the Scrum team.
During sprint planning, the Developers pull a chunk from the top of the product backlog and decide how they will complete it. The team has a set time frame, the sprint, to complete their work. They meet at the daily scrum to inspect progress towards the sprint goal and plan for the upcoming day. Along the way, the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on the sprint goal and can help the team improve as a whole.
At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable and ready to be used by a user or shown to a stakeholder. After each sprint, the team conducts a sprint review on the Increment and a retrospective on the process. Then they choose the next chunk of the backlog and the cycle repeats.
Transitioning to an agile framework such as Scrum requires a new mindset and overall cultural adjustments. And like all change, it doesn't come easy. But when teams and organizations fully commit to Scrum, they'll discover a new sense of flexibility, creativity, and inspiration - all of which will lead to greater results.
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