Scrum Guide Basics

Let’s understand Scrum and why it is useful.
Scrum Guide Basics

All the bold green words in the text are Scrum terms. You will find the exact definition of these terms in the current Scrum Guide.

Related article: 2020 Scrum Guide and Related Content 

Understand Scrum

For really difficult problems in life, any solution is not easy to find. The natural approach is to try something and if it does not work then try something else. Scrum puts this approach in a repeatable pattern, defining just the essential steps and responsibilities. One of the simplest descriptions is the following.

A scrum master creates an environment where this can happen smoothly:

  1. The product owner orders the work.

  2. The scrum team (composed of “developers”) turns the most important work into something usable.

  3. The scrum team and stakeholders try the usefulness of the solution and discuss possible improvements.

  4. Start at 1. again

In Scrum, such a single cycle is called sprint and its duration is one month or less.

Of course, you'll find there is more to the responsibilities as you learn about Scrum. The Certified ScrumMaster® acts like a team coach and change agent. You can read more about this here

The developers use a definition of done in order to describe their finishing line. As soon as the solution fits to the definition of done, a new increment is created. This can happen often. And the product owner can decide to ship any Increment to the customers. The product owner is steering the product development towards the product goal by ordering work in the product backlog. In order to enhance the focus of the scrum team, it selects a sprint goal and creates a fitting sprint backlog for this goal.

In addition to focus, there are four more scrum values: commitment, openness, respect, and courage

Use Scrum

A sprint starts with sprint planning, in which the scrum team selects the sprint goal and creates the sprint backlog to reach that goal. Every day, the developers in the scrum team meet for 15 minutes at the daily scrum and check their progress toward the sprint goal. In the sprint review at the end of the sprint, the scrum team checks with stakeholders, customers, and users the latest Increment. They discuss possible future changes and enhancements of the product. Finally, in the sprint retrospective, the scrum team identifies helpful changes to get better at collaboration and delivering valuable versions of the product.

During the whole sprint, the scrum master facilitates collaboration within the scrum team and where necessary also with other teams. This helps to boost productivity and effectiveness. Initially, the scrum master also facilitates the selection of the product goal possibly in a kick-off workshop.

Support the use of scrum in your teams

When necessary during the sprint, the scrum master facilitates changes in the organisation to remove impediments for the scrum team. It is the duty of everybody in management to support their scrum masters in this as this leads to faster and better products in the race with competition in the market. Time is crucial.

The scrum team should be experienced in their use of scrum. If this is not the case, they should look out for an experienced agile coach, such as a Certified Team Coach (CTCSM) or Certified Scrum Professional® Scrum Master (CSP®-SM).

For success with inexperienced scrum teams, do not skip on the scrum training. And regardless of the level of experience, any product development should be started with a properly trained scrum master-facilitated kick-off with the scrum team, management, customers, users, and representatives of contributing teams in our organisation participating.

Remember: If nobody wants to attend the kick-off, it might be better not to develop the product in the first place.

Scrum Trainers Comment on Scrum

Did you realize that in the text above there is no description of the work the scrum team does? Scrum does not care as long as the work is difficult enough and needs a team effort to create progress. It will help you in any situation where the solution is not obvious to an expert.

So what could a scrum product look like? The Scrum Guide defines it as: “... a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract.”

I have seen scrum products like pumps (housing, hardware, software), internet shops (software, logistics), window winders (hardware), ERP systems (software), medical devices (housing, hardware, software) and much more. Scrum is even used in schools to drive learning of the students in small teams while the headmaster uses scrum for her projects with the other teachers evolving the school into an even better school.

I wish you great success with your usage of scrum in your area of expertise!


About the Author


In 2003, Jürgen Hoffmann had his first contact with scrum. Since then, he has been part of processes implementing Scrum in different companies of various industries in all scrum roles. He is an active Certified Scrum Trainer (CST®) and Certified Enterprise Coach (CECSM), as well as Certified Team Coach (CTC) working with all levels of management and staff on product development in coaching and training settings. He co-founded and is very happy to work there.


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