Scrum Definition

Agile Scrum Objective

The main objective of the Agile Scrum framework is to allow cross-functional teams of 4 to 10 members to regularly deliver potentially shipable increments of a working product or service in increments of time not to exceed 30 days. This is the simple Scrum definition. But looking under the hood of Agile Scrum, you will find that the Agile Scrum philosophy is just as important as the described Agile framework.

Scrum is as much a philosophy as it is a process. In fact, it is more like a framework to be used as guidance than a process per se. And the success of the Agile Scrum execution depends as much on the interactions among stakeholders as it does the process.

Agile Scrum Roles

It is true that there are specific roles and responsibilities associated with Scrum. Specifically, there are 3 roles and the stakeholders:

  • ScrumMaster — The Agile Scrum champion, mentor and coach
  • Product Owner — The owner of the product requirements who works with the Stakeholders to try to maximize the value of each Sprint deliverable. The list of features is maintained in the Product Backlog.
  • The Agile Development Team (or the Agile Team) — No more than 4 to 10 people who are empowered with determining what they can deliver from the Product Backlog in each Sprint. The promised items are documented in a Sprint Backlog.
  • The Stakeholders — The Stakeholders are driving the product need and providing feedback to the Team on each Sprint

(See my post on Agile Scrum Roles and Responsibilities for more information on Agile Scrum roles).

Agile Scrum Philosophy

So why do I consider Agile Scrum to be more a philosophy than a process? For many reasons. To point out a few:

1. Agile Scrum adheres to the Agile Manifesto which adheres to the following principles:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software 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.

2. Agile Scrum adheres to a specific set of values and principles that make it distinct from other frameworks.

A critical part of the Scrum framework is the combination of values and principles that make Scrum unique and that make it work. These values and principles are not just lip-service. This is why it is so important to ensure that the Scrum participants understand and adhere to these principles.

2.1 Scrum Values — Agile Scrum adheres to a set of Scrum values:

The five Scrum values are

Commitment: Each individual must commit to fulfilling their role to the best of their ability. For example, the Team must commit to delivering the Sprint goal that they have promised to deliver. And the Product Owner must commit to striving to provide the best value to the stakeholders. The ScrumMaster, of course, must commit to the Scrum process and being a facilitator and coach.

Focus: Focus is at all levels. For example, focus on achieving the goal of delivering a product of value to the stakeholders. But the main focus should remain on the items highlighted in the Agile Manifesto. So, for example, don’t get lost in the documentation!
Openness: Open communication at all levels without fear of blame or retribution. Openness at all level because it is the right thing to do, not because it is required by management or someone else on the receiving end.

Respect: Commitment, focus and openness cannot be achieved without mutual respect for all team members. This is especially critical in communication and status reporting activities. Each individual must be treated with respect according to Scrum teachings. Each individual has something to contribute and be treated with respect.

Courage: It takes courage to make a commitment and stick to it. It also takes courage to communicate truths that don’t always want to be heard by sponsors or management. All of these are encouraged by the Scrum Framework. If you consider how Agile Scrum distributes responsibility, encourages self-management and open communication, then you will realize that it takes courage to accept this framework and your role within it.

2.2. Scrum Principles — Agile Scrum adheres to a set of Scrum principles

Scrum relies on the following principles to support the above listed values:

Prioritization: Periodic prioritization of needs is a constant theme in Scrum. This allows Scrum to be able to react quickly to changes in stakeholder needs or events on the ground. Prioritizing items in the Product Backlog after each Sprint based on stakeholder needs is a perfect example.

Accountability: Accountability means that all must be able to answer for their decisions, commitments and responsibilities. And each person is empowered to hold others accountable. There is not hierarchical management tree or ladder. It’s a “get the job done” attitude with respect and accountability mixed in.

Inspect-and-adapt: The team must periodically check their work and make adjustments accordingly.
Rhythm: A good Scrum team gets into a rhythm whereby they are delivering good quality product every Sprint. This becomes a cycle and it can be run like a well oiled machine if everyone understands and accepts the Agile Scrum philosophy.

Feedback: Feedback loops are important in Scrum. There are many opportunities to provide feedback. At the Team level, feedback is provided at each daily Scrum. At the end of each Sprint, the Stakeholders provide feedback. Internal lessons learned feedback is provided by the Team at the Retrospective meetings, which occur at the end of a Sprint are intended as a lessons learned-type exercise for the Team.

Collaboration: Collaboration is critical at all levels and at greater frequency and rigor.
Self-Organizing: Self-organization is an important principle of Agile Scrum because it encourages team members to take responsibility of their work. For this reason, the Team must have a certain level of autonomy and authority to allow this to flourish.

Focus: Avoid unnecessary distractions and try to maximize the individuals’ time so that they are given time and space to concentrate and get things done. Excessive meetings are discouraged, for example. A daily Scrum meeting, not to exceed 15 minutes, is the only team meetings. There can be other side-bar meetings as needed, but the Sprint work is the main focus.

You might be able to make an argument that other frameworks encourage these values and principles as well, but they are not as clearly and distinctly made to be a core part of the framework as in Agile Scrum.

3. Agile Scrum strives to maintain a balance of power among the roles

The roles have already been described. But it is important to note that each role must be filled by a separate person so that a single person cannot fulfill the role of the ScrumMaster and the Product Owner, for example. The roles of the ScrumMaster, Product-Owner, Team and Stakeholders are all unique and do not hold an undue amount of power. For example, although the Product Owner maintains the Product Backlog, which captures the needs of the Stakeholders, it is ultimately up to the Team to determine what they can commit to completing in each Sprint. This takes place during the Sprint Planning sessions.

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