The Scrum framework was developed by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been used all across the globe to assist teams in developing, delivering and sustaining complex products. In essence, it aims to help teams address complex adaptive problems while maximising the value from their products. The framework is applicable for almost any type of product, including software, autonomous vehicles, schools, marketing, and even governments. As such, it has become one of the most popular frameworks covered in project management training courses.
Scrum is based on the theory of empirical process control. Simply put, it means that decisions are made based on real-time observations and experimentation, such that changes can be made in response to shifts in a volatile landscape. As such, the framework involves less upfront planning and a more iterative approach to control risk. Three main ideas surround the implementation of Scrum: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
- Transparency: Those who are responsible for the deliverables must be in the know about the significant aspects of the process. Everyone needs to be on the same page about the project goals and steps that need to be taken. For example, all participants should communicate with mutually understood terminology.
- Inspection: Users should consistently inspect their backlogs and progress, such that undesirable changes can be detected. These should be carried out at an appropriate frequency by skilled inspectors.
- Adaptation: If it is found that aspects of the process are deviating to an unacceptable degree, there must be an adjustment of the process or product. Changes should be made as soon as possible to minimise further deviation.
The Scrum Team
A typical Scrum Team comprises of a Product Owner, Development Team, and Scrum Master. Teams are kept small, which allows for increased flexibility and adaptability. They are self-organising, meaning that they can direct themselves to accomplish their tasks in a way that they know is best. They are also cross-functional, with members possessing every competency needed to function independently. Here is a brief summary of each of the roles.
- Product Owner: This person is in charge of managing the Product Backlog, which is essentially a list of things that need to be addressed while developing or managing the product. He or she needs to clearly express and order the items in the Product Backlog, and ensure that the Development Team can access and understand the items.
- The Development Team: Making up the majority of the Scrum Team, these individuals are responsible for producing a “Done” increment product, or ‘complete’ product, at the end of each Sprint. They should be allowed to organise their own work so that they can remain efficient and flexible.
- Scrum Master: The Scrum Master supports the Scrum process by helping the team members understand and properly implement its concepts. This person is also in charge of engaging those outside the Scrum Team, instructing them on how to interact with the team productively.
In addition to team structure, the Scrum framework also prescribes certain events that can minimise the time spent on meetings. Barring the Sprint, which is given a fixed duration, every other event is given a maximum possible duration, such that there is minimal time wastage.
- The Sprint: This is the central event in the Scrum framework. Sprints are time-boxes of 1 month or less, wherein a “Done” increment product has to be developed by the end. Once a Sprint begins, its duration cannot be changed, except on rare occasions, where outside circumstances necessitate for a Sprint to be cancelled. Within each Sprint are all the subsequent events, and the development work.
- Sprint Planning: This occurs at the start of each Sprint. The entire Scrum Team comes together and decides on what the deliverables will be, and how to achieve them. This event has a time limit of eight hours, even less if the Sprint is under 1 month in length.
- Daily Scrum: These are 15-minute time-boxes held by the Development Team, for every day of the Sprint. For simplicity’s sake, the Daily Scrum is held at the same place and time every day. Here, they inspect the work done since the last Daily Scrum and plan their work for the next 24 hours.
- Sprint Review: This is a 4-hour meeting held at the end of each Sprint. Its purpose is to review the increments delivered, the challenges faced during the Sprint, and address any changes to the Product Backlog, among others.
- Sprint Retrospective: This 3-hour event occurs after the Sprint Review. The Scrum Team looks back at the last Sprint, and finds ways to improve their work processes or their definition of “Done”. Ideally, this allows them to make the process more productive and enjoyable, and increase product quality.
When distilled down to its key ideas, the Scrum framework is simple. Start with what you know, and improve along the way. However, implementation can be a bit more complicated. To educate yourself on the best practices in Scrum, you can sign up for a course at a reputable training institute.
We offer the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) course, which covers the basic principles of Agile, as well as the theoretical and practical knowledge surrounding Scrum. If you are looking to learn more about the Agile methodology, we also offer Agile training in Singapore. Whether you are a Scrum Master, manager, or Scrum Team member, anybody involved in the process would stand to benefit from these courses.