Your Quick Guide to All Things Scrum

by Scrum Alliance
Hand with Post-its showing how some people visualize Scrum
Overview / Framework / Team / Events / Artifacts

Please note, the following information comes from the thought leadership of our Certified Scrum Trainers and Certified Agile Coaches, as well as other reputable sources, including the Agile Manifesto and the November 2017 version of the Scrum GuideTM.

Overview: What is Scrum?

Scrum is a lightweight yet incredibly powerful set of values, principles and practices.

Scrum relies on cross-functional teams to deliver products and services in short cycles, enabling:

  • Fast feedback
  • Continuous improvement
  • Rapid adaptation to change
  • Accelerated delivery

Understanding the Scrum Flow

At its heart, Scrum works by breaking large products and services into small pieces that can be completed (and potentially released) by a cross-functional team in a short timeframe. 

Scrum teams inspect each batch of functionality as it is completed and then adapt what will be created next based on learning and feedback, minimizing risk and reducing waste. This cycle repeats until the full product or service is delivered—one that meets customer needs because the business has the opportunity to adjust the fit at the end of each timeframe.

Benefits of Using Scrum

Because Scrum teams are continuously creating only the highest priority chunks of functionality, the business is assured maximum return on investment

Scrum helps businesses:

  • Innovate faster
  • Move from idea to delivery more quickly
  • Drive higher customer satisfaction
  • Increase employee morale


The Definition of Scrum

Scrum (n): An [agile] framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.
Source: Scrum Guide, November 2017 version

Scrum is the most widely used and popular agile framework. The term agile describes a specific set of foundational principles and values for organizing and managing complex work.

The term Scrum comes from a 1986 Harvard Business Review article in which authors Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka made an analogy comparing high-performing, cross-functional teams to the scrum formation used by rugby teams. 

Though it has its roots in software development, today Scrum refers to a lightweight framework that is used in every industry to deliver complex, innovative products and services that truly delight customers. It is simple to understand, but difficult to master.

Fundamentals of Agile & Scrum

Agile principles and values foster the mindset and skills businesses need in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment. The term agile was first used in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (Agile Manifesto) back in 2001. 

The main tenets of the Agile Manifesto are: 

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working [products] over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan 

That is, while there is value in the items on the right,
we value the items on the left more.

Scrum fulfills the vision of the Agile Manifesto by helping individuals and businesses organize their work to maximize collaboration, minimize red tape, deliver frequently, and create multiple opportunities to inspect and adapt.

Difference Between Scrum & Agile

The difference between agile and Scrum is that agile refers to a set of principles and values shared by several methodologies, processes and practices; Scrum is one of several agile frameworks--and is the most popular.

Learn more about the difference between Scrum and Agile and how they differ from Waterfall.

The Benefits of Using Scrum

Anybody who has a complex project can benefit from using Scrum. 

Scrum was founded in the technology and software industries, but there are no limits to where Scrum can transform the world of work. Scrum and other agile frameworks have the power to transform project management across every industry in every business.

Scrum is not unproven hype. Scrum has been used to manage work on complex products since the early 1990s. It’s a solid and successful framework that’s been applied to a variety of projects and teams. In fact, Scrum is by far the most popular and widely used agile framework.1

How Scrum Helps All Industries Manage Change

Teams that use agile frameworks like Scrum discover how to react more quickly and respond more accurately to the inevitable change that comes their way. And by staying focused, collaborating, and communicating, teams can accomplish what truly needs to be done — together.

Universities use Scrum to deliver valued projects to clients. Militaries have relied on Scrum to prepare ships for deployment. In the automotive world, Team Wikispeed is using Scrum to build a fast, affordable, ultra-efficient, safe commuter car that should sell for less than $20,000. 

Companies that have adopted an agile framework like Scrum report the following benefits:

  • Increased ability to manage changing priorities
  • Better visibility into projects
  • More alignment between business and IT
  • Faster time to market1

So whether you’re working on the next smartphone app, managing logistics for a store, or planning a charity event, you should take a closer look at using Scrum.

How an Agile Framework Like Scrum Works

As mentioned in more detail above, Scrum is an agile framework that helps companies meet complex, changing needs while creating high-quality products and services. Scrum works by delivering large projects in small chunks–bite-sized product increments that a cross-functional team can begin and complete in one, short timeboxed iteration.

As each product increment is completed, teams review the functionality and then decide what to create next based on what they learned and the feedback they received during the review. These frequent inspect and adapt cycles reduce waste and minimize risk. The teams also inspect their use of Scrum, looking for ways to improve. At the end of each timebox, teams begin a new iteration until they deliver the complete product or service, or until what they have released so far fulfills customer needs.

Scrum Theory

Scrum is based on the theory of empirical process control, which relies on transparency, inspection, & adaptation. Scrum is also both iterative and incremental.

Scrum Rests on Three Pillars of Empirical Process Control


To make decisions, people need visibility into the process and the current state of the product. To ensure everyone understands what they are seeing, participants in an empirical process must share one language.

Scrum Reviews Provide Transparency.

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


To prevent deviation from the desired process or end product, people need to inspect what is being created, and how, at regular intervals. Inspection should occur at the point of work but should not get in the way of that work. 

Scrum Reviews & Retrospectives Offer Inspection Opportunities.

Scrum teams inspect their completed work and their process at the end of every iteration during the sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives.


When deviations occur, the process or product should be adjusted as soon as possible. 

Scrum Teams Can Adapt the Product at the End of Every Sprint.

Scrum allows for adjustments at the end of every iteration.

Scrum Is Iterative & Incremental


A process for arriving at a decision or a desired result by repeating rounds of analysis or a cycle of operations. The objective is to bring the desired decision or result closer to discovery with each repetition (iteration).2

Scrum’s use of a repeating cycle of iterations is iterative.


A series of small improvements to an existing product or product line that usually helps maintain or improve its competitive position over time. Incremental innovation is regularly used within the high technology business by companies that need to continue to improve their products to include new features increasingly desired by consumers.2

The way Scrum teams deliver pieces of functionality into small batches is incremental.

Scrum Values

A team’s success with Scrum depends on five values: commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect.

The Five Scrum Values

The Scrum Guide lists five values that all Scrum teams share: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

How Does Commitment Allow Scrum Teams to Be Agile?

The Scrum value of commitment is essential for building an agile culture. Scrum teams work together as a unit. This means that Scrum and agile teams trust each other to follow through on what they say they are going to do. When team members aren’t sure how work is going, they ask. Agile teams only agree to take on tasks they believe they can complete, so they are careful not to overcommit.

Great ScrumMasters Value Commitment.

Great ScrumMasters reinforce a team’s commitment when they facilitate sprint planning, protect teams from mid-sprint changes, and deflect excessive pressure from product owners.

How Does Courage Allow Scrum Teams to Be Agile?

The Scrum value of courage is critical to an agile team’s success. Scrum teams must feel safe enough to say no, to ask for help, and to try new things. Agile teams must be brave enough to question the status quo when it hampers their ability to succeed.

Great ScrumMasters Value Courage.

Great ScrumMasters help foster team courage by creating safety for team members to have difficult conversations--with one another, with the product owner, and with stakeholders. ScrumMasters are fearless about removing impediments that slow the team down. ScrumMasters also stand up to stakeholders to prevent changes or side projects during the sprint while also helping teams adapt when priorities shift between sprints.

How Does Focus Allow Scrum Teams to Be Agile?

The Scrum value of focus is one of the best skills Scrum teams can develop. Focus means that whatever Scrum teams start they finish--so agile teams are relentless about limiting the amount of work in process (limit WIP). 

Great ScrumMasters Value Focus.

Great ScrumMasters encourage team focus by holding the team to their own definition of done, by encouraging full team participation at each daily scrum, and by ensuring that team members only present work that is complete at the sprint review.

How Does Openness Allow Scrum Teams to Be Agile?

Scrum teams consistently seek out new ideas and opportunities to learn. Agile teams are also honest when they need help.

Great ScrumMasters Value Openness.

Great ScrumMasters facilitate openness in daily scrums so the team is always aware of exactly how the sprint is going. ScrumMasters encourage openness in sprint reviews by ensuring that stakeholder feedback is constructive and that team members are able to hear it. ScrumMasters remind teams that learning about product shortcomings early is much less expensive and much more helpful than hearing about them late in the project, or worse after the product is in the customer’s hands. In the same way, ScrumMasters foster an open environment in sprint retrospectives so that teams can grow and develop from sprint to sprint.

How Does Respect Allow Scrum Teams to Be Agile?

Scrum team members demonstrate respect to one another, to the product owner, to stakeholders, and to the ScrumMaster. Agile teams know that their strength lies in how well they collaborate and that everyone has a distinct contribution to make toward completing the work of the sprint. They respect each other’s ideas, give each other permission to have a bad day once in a while, and recognize each other’s accomplishments.

Great ScrumMasters Value Respect.

Great ScrumMasters develop respect in their teams. They help teams listen to each other during daily scrums. They encourage teams to share their struggles and their successes. ScrumMasters also point out times of strong collaboration and facilitate conversations around new ideas.


Overview / Framework / Team / Events / Artifacts

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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