Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland – Agile leaders and the creators of the original Scrum Guide – celebrated 25 years of Scrum with the release of an updated guide. It’s been three years since the previous version and so like we’d expect from the co-creators of Scrum, they made changes with an Agile mindset. In fact, the Scrum Guide was reduced by over 30% and added more clarity. More importantly, you’ll find that the Scrum Guide is now less prescriptive and more relatable across industries as an operating model versus a “how-to” manual.

After consulting with members of the Agile community and industry thought leaders, the duo kept the core pillars in place – Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation – but revised the guide to provide a leaner, more transparent understanding of the framework to allow new industries to explore Scrum.

What’s new in the guide?

We’ve broken down ten major changes to the Scrum Guide to help you stay up to date as a Scrum Master, Product Owner or member of a Scrum team.

1. Scrum is a framework and should not be a prescriptive method of working. The essence of Scrum should be one that is flexible to learn, try new things, and evolve. A benefit of Scrum (and why it works so well for many industries) is that it encourages the review and adaptation of processes, the team and goals. Schwaber and Sutherland removed the Daily Scrum questions, softened language around certain attributes and retro items, and more to simplify the framework and keep Scrum adaptive.

2. Emphasizes for flow and simplicity. The 2020 guide places an emphasis on eliminating redundant and complex statements, and removing any inference to IT-specific work (ex: testing, system, design, requirement, etc). With Scrum being adopted across industries and work domains, the IT-specific terminology is antiquated and unnecessary.

3. One unified team focused on one product. They have eliminated the concept of a team within a team between the Product Owner and Scrum Master with the Development Team (this was confusing to most new Agilists). Now, there is one unified Scrum Team focused on the same objective. The “entire Scrum Team (Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers) is accountable for creating a valuable, useful Increment every Sprint.”

4. Introduction of the Product Goal. The 2020 Scrum Guide introduced the concept of a Product Goal – the future state of the product – to provide focus for the Scrum Team toward a larger valuable objective. Each Sprint should bring the product closer to the overall Product Goal. Hence, “vision” is removed as it was perceived as being too nebulous. Using “goal”, there is clarity that enables us to integrate Strategy with Delivery while still ensuring that we can apply concepts like SMART goals or OKRs depending on the nature of the work.

5. Artifact “Commitments.” The 2020 guide provides more clarity around the Sprint Goal and Definition of Done. With the addition of the Product Goal, each of the three artifacts now contain ‘commitments’ to them. For the Product Backlog it is the Product Goal, the Sprint Backlog has the Sprint Goal, and the Increment has the Definition of Done to bring transparency and focus toward the progress of each artifact.

6. Change from self-organized to self-managed. Previous Scrum Guides referred to Development Teams as “self-organizing”, choosing who and how to do work. The Scrum Guide now uses the terms “self-managing” and “self-management” to emphasize that Scrum Teams choose “who, how and what to work on.”

7. Three Sprint Planning topics. In addition to the Sprint Planning topics of “What” and “How,” the 2020 Scrum Guide emphasizes a third topic, “Why?” Every Sprint is an investment. Asking “Why” allows teams to consider the value (money and time to market) of these investments. Why do we invest in this product/service? What outcome or impact are we looking to make?

8. From responsible to accountable. The earlier guides originally stated that specific roles were “responsible” for certain work. It’s now been changed to “accountable.” The reason is that for the flow of work to occur and in conditions of achieving high-performance on teams - the actual responsibility can shift from one person to another. This is the prerogative of being self-managed. Instead, the accountable role simply needs to be sure that the actions are being done and does not mandate that the role must be the one to specifically satisfy the action for the team.

9. No estimates. The nature of understanding the “size” of the work is mentioned. However, the activity of estimating and re-estimating the work has been removed. This is helpful as the team only needs to pull the work that they need to complete in the sprint. They should understand the size of the items as it relates to achieving their sprint goal. Therefore, while it’s necessary to size the work for planning, specific estimates for product backlog increments are no longer a focal point.

10. Sprint Review as a Working session. In the past, the Sprint Review could be interpreted as a “show and tell” presentation to Stakeholders. Now it’s more clear that the Sprint Review is an opportunity for stakeholders to get involved in sharing feedback and information pertaining to the Product Goal. Additionally, the focus is on the progress toward the Product Goal and to identify any shifts of the Product Goal. And surprisingly, the Sprint Goal is no longer mentioned. We can assume the Scrum Team will review the Sprint Goal but that it’s NOT THE MAIN PURPOSE of the meeting. The purpose is to identify the adaptations needed to keep the team focused on achieving the appropriate Product Goal.

So, what does this mean for you?

Although the new guide was released in November 2020, all assessments and classes will be based on the previous version (2017) as of now. We will update our students as soon as we are notified of updates.

In the meantime, Hyperdrive Agile’s trainers are excited for the new changes and opportunities that these updates bring for new industries to explore. Our trainers and coaches are working to become familiar with the new wording and additional concepts to provide our students with the latest in Scrum knowledge.

And remember…

Scrum is still Scrum. It was originally intended to be used as a framework to provide a common foundation for teams to work together. Scrum practices are supposed to shift and adapt with a team and/or organizational changes. As we consider these updates, we encourage our community to remember the basics:

  1. Are we working effectively as a team?
  2. Can this help solve a problem?
  3. Is what we are doing delivering value to our team, customers and organization?

If something is working for your team but has been removed from the guide, that’s ok! Keep on moving forward with your best practices and what works for you. That’s the beauty of Scrum. It prioritizes teams and their unique needs. If you need a more specialized approach, contact Hyperdrive about our Agile consulting services.

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