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Last updated on 4/29/22

Discover the Theory and Values Behind the Scrum Framework

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What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile framework that can be applied to effectively building complex products (such as software, websites, or apps). Scrum can also be used in a variety of other situations, not just technology. For instance, Scrum is currently being used to create marketing campaigns, improve a large corporate HR department, and in many K-12 classrooms.

This framework details:

  • People -  (i.e., which team members are on the Scrum team and their accountabilities).

  • Certain artifacts that team members must help create.

  • Events that the Scrum Team conducts to inspect, adapt, and improve as a group.

  • A set of rules and commitments that apply to quality, how work is to be done, and goals they are working towards.

As the rules are clear, an environment is created where each team member knows their role and accountabilities, and everybody outside the team can easily understand what progress is being made.

The Scrum Guide Definition

The Scrum Guide is a document written by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland (the inventors of Scrum) that outlines all the rules of Scrum. The guide describes Scrum as follows:

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:

  1. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.

  2. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.

  3. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.

  4. Repeat

Scrum is simple. Try it as is and determine if its philosophy, theory, and structure help to achieve goals and create value. The Scrum framework is purposefully incomplete, only defining the parts required to implement Scrum theory. Scrum is built upon by the collective intelligence of the people using it. Rather than provide people with detailed instructions, the rules of Scrum guide their relationships and interactions.

Various processes, techniques and methods can be employed within the framework. Scrum wraps around existing practices or renders them unnecessary. Scrum makes visible the relative efficacy of current management, environment, and work techniques, so that improvements can be made.

Scrum as a Framework

As mentioned above, Scrum is a framework and not a method for effective software delivery and building products. Therefore, the distinction between framework and method is an important one in Scrum.

When considering Scrum, there are two distinct definitions. One focuses on the rules, ideas, and beliefs. The other focuses on the framework. The Collins Dictionary gives two definitions:

A framework is a particular set of rules, ideas, or beliefs which you use in order to deal with problems or to decide what to do.

and

A framework is a structure that forms a support or frame for something.

Both definitions can help you to understand Scrum. Sticking to a set of rules and beliefs will help you work effectively, but it can't tell you every step to follow when building a product. Instead, it is a guideline that each team will have to apply to their own circumstances. For example, if you are working with a team based in multiple locations, your daily update calls may be at different times of the day. The method in which developers review each other's code could also be adapted to virtual teams.

Empirical Process Control

The Scrum Guide says that:

Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and then making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk.

It can be helpful to think of a factory production line when trying to understand empirical process control. In a factory, you have:

  1. Inputs or raw materials.

  2. Process, or the manufacturing process.

  3. Outputs, the end-product.

To understand when the work is effective, you typically inspect the outputs to see if they are high quality.

If they are not, you would typically inspect your inputs and process to see if they can be improved. If you can improve them, make the necessary adaptations, run the process again, and inspect your new outputs. In this way, you become effective over time.

Note that for this to work, the process must be transparent and observable by anyone.

As you saw above, the three pillars of empirical process control are:

  1. Transparency

  2. Inspection

  3. Adaptation

The values behind Scrum are heavily influenced by the three pillars of empirical process control.

The Values Behind Scrum

The Scrum Guide provides a user manual that outlines key aspects. It was defined by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the originators of Scrum some years ago, and is continually updated. The Scrum Guide was updated in 2016 to include a new section on Scrum values

The below diagram illustrates the values to consider when adopting Scrum into your project or workplace.

SCRUM Values
Scrum values 

These values are:

  1. Commitment - The Scrum Team will define what valuable objective (a Sprint Goal)  is possible within a set period (say two weeks). Each team member commits to delivering on this goal. They also commit to helping each other and working as a team to deliver the best possible value to the customer. It is important to note that they are not committing to achieving the Sprint Goal but doing their best. Sometimes teams don’t reach their goals, and that is acceptable in Scrum as in life.

  2. Openness - Being transparent requires openness and honesty. In particular, when a team member faces challenges in their work, it is important to be open about that so the process can be inspected and improved. Being an effective team member sometimes means asking for help when needed.

  3. Courage - Being transparent in your work also requires courage. When inspecting the process, remember that people make mistakes or can be wrong about something. Admitting this usually endears respect from colleagues, but it is never easy to admit you are wrong or made a mistake.

  4. Focus - Each team will commit to focusing on and delivering a single Sprint Goal. This value could also relate to the idea that by limiting WIP, you are focused on less at the same time, which may help you get more of the right work done. There may be plenty of valuable work that you can do, but not if it is at the expense of the team commitments.

  5. Respect - It is normal for there to be some conflict or disagreement in a team. Having respect for team members means that you can respectfully criticize each other and help to improve in areas where one team member is an expert, and the other has something to learn. 

Remind yourself of the three pillars of empirical process control and the five values of Scrum as we dive deeper into Scrum for the rest of this course. Can you see how they apply?

Let's Recap!

  • Scrum is a framework (not a method) for software delivery.

  • Doing more than Scrum is acceptable; however, doing less is not Scrum.

  • Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory. The three pillars of that theory are transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

  • The five values of Scrum are commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. 

 Now that you've discovered how the Scrum framework is grounded, we'll see the different members that are part of a Scrum team!

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement