Scrum uses self-organizing cross-functional teams to incrementally develop products in short cycles. In Scrum these cycles are known as sprints. Each sprint contains a set of fixed events that help structure the teams work process. Scrum defines roles that clearly structure the responsibilities in the team, they are: development team, product owner, and scrum master. All work in close and constant collaboration with customers and stakeholders. A scrum team uses so-called artifacts, the product backlog, the sprint backlog and the product increment, to deliver “done” work.
The scrum development team is a self-organizing cross-functional team. It shares a joint responsibility to deliver customer value. It needs to be able to deliver products or services end-to-end. Therefore the team needs to contain all competencies required to do so within the team.
The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the work delivered by the development team. As such the Product Owner is responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The product owner is the only one who can decide what the development team should work on and needs to be mandated to do so. Stakeholder priorities are managed through the Product Backlog, exclusively by the Product Owner. He or she is in close contact with customer and stakeholders and is responsible for transparency of the product backlog and what the development team is working on.
The Scrum Master is a servant leader who serves the development team, the product owner, and the organization. The Scrum Master coaches the development team and the Product Owner and helps them deliver better results. He or she helps the team to be transparent, deliver faster, reflect and continuously improve.
Stakeholders are not part of the Scrum team but are continuously involved. They can be users, deciders or other interested parties. They are invited to offer their input and feedback, and collaborate with the team during the review. The Product Owner uses stakeholder input and feedback to revise the Product Backlog and adjust for the next Sprint.
Artifacts and tools
To many Scrum is best known for visual management and abundant flip-over and post-it use. Such tools help the scrum team to maintain constant transparency and overview. The Scrum Guide refers to the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog and product increment as the “Scrum Artifacts”
The product backlog is an ordened list of that is required to ‘build’ the product. It is the single source of truth of everything that is needed. The Product Backlog is dynamic, it is constantly updated as the team learns and discovers new things. It is a representation of the best knowledge about what is required at that time. The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog.
The Sprint Backlog is a collection of product backlog items that make up the current sprint. Every sprints has a new sprint backlog that contains the product backlog items that the Product Owner has decided will deliver the most value that Sprint.
The increment is the sum of all product backlog items of that sprint added to the value delivered in previous sprints. An increment must be ‘done’ at the end of a sprint, meaning it is potentially shippable.
Acceptance criteria help to determine whether a product backlog item is complete. As a product backlog item moves up the backlog item these criteria are constantly refined.
Most scrum teams use a scrum board to keep track of the status of the current sprint. They can be either physical or digital. Typically it shows what work still needs to be done, what is in progress, and what is done. It is a visual aid to inspect the team progress towards the sprint goal.
Scrum uses a set of events in a regular cadence to structure each sprint. This regular rhythm creates space for flexibility and adaptability. The Scrum events are: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Review and Retrospective
During the Sprint Planning the team and Product Owner decide on the goal for the sprint and how to deliver this result. They select the appropriate items from the Product Backlog and forecast what they will be able to deliver. Over time the team learns to estimate the appropriate workload by using a so-called yesterday’s weather pattern.
The Daily Scrum is a short, time-boxed, event (15 minutes maximum) that takes place daily. The development team uses the Daily Scrum to inspect progress towards the sprint goal and plan the next 24 hours of the sprint. The goal of the Daily Scrum is to improve communication, surface impediments quickly, share knowledge and ensure rapid decision making. The Daily Scrum is also often referred to as the stand-up.
The Review is used to demonstrate what was delivered during the sprint and invite stakeholders to provide feedback. This feedback is translated into the Product Backlog and provides fuel for the next sprint. The result of a good Review is to know what would deliver most value in the next sprint.
The goal of the Retrospective is to continuously improve as a team. During the Retrospective the team evaluates its process and performance and decide how to improve in the next sprint. It is a best practice to chose at least one improvement item and add this to the next Sprint Backlog. The Retrospective is the final event in the sprint, after the Retrospective the next sprint starts with a Sprint Planning.
Refinement is not a Scrum ‘event’ but does occur throughout the sprint. Some teams plan a specific time slot every sprint to refine the backlog. The goal of refinement is to ensure product backlog items are ready to be picked up in a sprint by adding detail and estimating the effort required to complete the work.
Three pillars of Scrum
The Scrum framework is built upon three pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Together they ensure empirical process control or ’empiricism’. Transparency helps everyone speak the same language, share information as quickly and easily as possible, and creates an open culture. Inspection is embedded in the Scrum events, most specifically the Daily Scrum, the Retrospective and Review. Transparency allow us to inspect and ultimately adapt and make the required improvements to our product and process.
Ultimately the core of Scrum lies in living the Scrum Values. They are:
The team commits to work in a focused way towards attaining the agreed goals. They have the courage to tackle obstacles and do what is required. We are open about our work and the associated challenges and respect each other, our qualities, and our shortcomings.