← Back to Articles

What is Scrum

Published at by
What is Scrum

Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

Scrum, as written on the Scrum Guide is a simple framework for developing complex product and to creatively deliver value through the product. Even though Scrum is popular for developing software, but Scrum is applicable for developing any product that is complex. Because it is mainly for complex problems, Scrum relies on empiricism, that means in Scrum we do not spend days or even weeks to create plans for predictability. In Scrum, we dance with unpredictability and learn from the past. The three pillars of empiricism are transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Sprint

The heartbeat of Scrum is the Sprint, it is a timebox to develop the product with a duration of no more than 30 days. Because the duration of the Sprint is much shorter than the duration of the whole product lifecycle, that means throughout the product development there are multiple Sprints. Scrum employs an iterative and incremental approach in developing the product.

Sprint Planning

A Sprint starts with a Sprint Planning. As Scrum is a goal driven framework, the planning starts with the Sprint Goal. The Product Owner needs to explain what is the goal of the Sprint. From the goal, the Development Team will select the Product Backlog items (PBI) that they think will help achieve the goal. The Product Backlog item can be written in User Story format, but it is the Development Team responsibility to decide what the format should be. Besides the Sprint Goal and the Product Backlog, other inputs to the Sprint Planning are:

  • The Development Team previous Sprints performance, this may be in forms of velocity or throughput.
  • The Development Team members availability, as some people may not be available full-time during the Sprint.
  • The Definition of Done

Besides the Product Owner and the Development Team, the Scrum Master attends to facilitate the Sprint Planning. Before the end of the Sprint Planning, the Development Team should be able to come up with the Sprint Backlog, or the list of work for the Sprint to turn the Sprint Goal into a usable and potentially releasable product.

Related article: Upgrade your Sprint Planning, Gain Engagement from your Development Team

Daily Scrum

Every day the Development team self-organises to select the Sprint Backlog items that they will do. Nobody tells or assigns them work. Not even the Scrum Master or the Product Owner. The Scrum Master may attend the Daily Scrum as needed to teach and coach the Development Team how Daily Scrum enables them to self-organise and own the work. The Daily Scrum works as daily feedback for the Development Team to inspect and adapt the work throughout the Sprint. As Scrum is a goal driven framework, the topics discussed during Daily Scrum revolves around the Sprint Goal that was set during Sprint Planning.

Development and Product Backlog refinement

The Development Team usually happens after the Daily Scrum. It is quite common to see the Development Team spend the time to refine the future Product Backlog items. They usually spend around 15-30 minutes a day or 10% of the whole Sprint capacity. They may invite the Product Owner to refine the Product Backlog together or communicate with the Product Owner with other media if they need clarification with the Product Backlog items. During the development, the Development Team ensures the product increment meets the Definition of Done and the Sprint goal.

Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, the Product Owner, the Development Team and the Scrum Master attend the Sprint Review to review the product increment. Other stakeholders who are interested in the product may attend the Sprint Review to give feedback to the product. Any feedback that comes up during the Sprint Review goes into the Product Backlog. Only the Product Owner who decides when that feedback will be implemented. The Product Owner is the ones presenting the Sprint goal and how the product increment meets the Sprint Goal to the stakeholders. Product Owner may also decide to release the product increment to the production environment.

Sprint Retrospectives

After the Sprint Review, the Product Owner, the Development Team and the Scrum Master attend the Sprint Retrospectives to discuss future improvement for the process or the relationship between them. If they found the quality of the product does not meet a high-quality standard, they can inspect the Definition of Done and improve the Definition of Done.

This event is usually facilitated by the Scrum Master. Great Scrum Masters may vary the format from Sprint to Sprint but he/she must not forget the main point of Sprint Retrospectives is finding improvements. Our mantra is, the whole Scrum Team will continuously do Sprint Retrospectives until they become perfect. The Sprint Retrospectives we would say as the most important event in Scrum as it emphasise continuous learning and continuous improvement.

When do we stop Sprinting

A new Sprint starts after the Sprint Retrospectives. That means we do Sprint Planning again after the Sprint Retrospectives ends. It is quite common to see many teams do the Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospectives, and the Sprint Planning in one full day. The Sprint will no longer continue if:

  • The budget for product development has finished.
  • Users no longer want to use the product.
  • The return on investment (ROI) for the product has been met.

Every Sprint, the Product Owner ensures that the value of the product is as high as possible before the whole Scrum team stopped Sprinting. A running Sprint may also be canceled by the Product Owner if in the middle of the Sprint if the Product Owner found that the Sprint Goal is no longer relevant. Product Owner needs to be cautious in canceling a Sprint Goal. Sprint cancellation usually happens in very extreme cases like bankruptcy or company merger.

Scrum Team is focused on optimising the value of the product and to do this the embrace the Scrum values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

This is a very short introduction to Scrum to give you an overview about Scrum. Would you like to learn more beyond the theories how you can exploit Scrum to help your organisation improve its agility? Check out our list of training programs here.