Scrum Guide 2020: The Most Important Takeaways

What Has Changed?

Recently, there have been big updates on Scrum methodology. From the Scrum Guide of 2017 to the Scrum Guide of 2020, there have been some substantial changes which we will mention briefly in this article. Make sure to read the whole thing, if you so choose, if you want the full story.

For one, the New Scrum team consists of the Product Owner, developers, and scrum master. People who do the work of creating usable increments are called developers. The entire Scrum team should always be accountable for providing valuable and useful increments in every sprint.

The 2017 Scrum guide used terms like ‘self-organizing’ and ‘self-organization’, whereas the Scrum Guide of 2020 opted for more terms such as ‘self-managing’ and ‘self-management’.

These are only a few changes, and the article tackles some brief points, so be sure to read about the New Scrum guide and be up-to-date on new methodologies.

What is Scrum?

In brief, as defined by Google, Scrum is a lightweight framework that is used to aid people, organizations, and teams, to generate and gather value through adaptive solutions. This is used for all sorts of problems, as it is a way of solving complex issues in a very efficient and coherent manner.

In short, for Scrum, one will require a so-called ‘Scrum Master’, where this person will create an environment to solve problems. As described in ‘The Scrum Guide’ by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, a scrum master should create an environment with these 4 points:

  1. A product owner orders the work for a problem into a product backlog;
  2. The scrum teams turn a selection of the work into an increment of value during a sprint;
  3. The team and other stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next sprint;
  4. Repeat the process.

Essentially one will create a list of problems to solve, and once these problems are done, the team should inspect the results, refine the process and repeat. Thus, a problem will take less time and deliberation to solve, and the company/business will be faster and more efficient.

The Team

The new scrum team should consist of a few people. As stated in the guide, the team should have:

  • One-Scrum Master
  • One-Product Owner
  • Developers

It is important to mention that the scrum team has no hierarchy. No member is above another; this has to be a cohesive and equal unit which focuses on one objective at a time. Scrum team members must be self-managing and cross-functional, meaning that the members all have the necessary skills to finish the job and they are the ones who decide who does what. Usually, a scrum team is up to 10 people or fewer. The idea is that the new scrum team is small enough to remain nimble, but still large enough to finish the work well, with quality and good timing.

If the scrum team grows to a significantly larger amount, these teams should be further divided into other scrum teams which all focus on the same product; hence, having multiple cells working to fix the same problem. Once this is done, all scrum teams can meet and discuss and move forward once again.

The Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is a list of what must be done to improve the product. This is a list of items that can be done by the Scrum team within the sprint. During daily scrum meetings, the team can constantly refine the backlog as a process to further understand the product or service they are giving. This should be an ongoing activity where the team members provide value to the product goal.

The Sprint

Sprints are the heart of Scrum. This is where all the ideas and discussions turn into value. Sprints are a limited and fixed length of time of one month or less to create a consistent workflow. New sprints usually start at the end of the previous effort. The work that is necessary to achieve the product goal is all done within the sprint. This includes Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. These all happen within the allotted time of the sprint.

During the sprint, there are a few essential notes that one should keep in mind before attempting such an effort.

Firstly, there are no significant changes that would endanger the sprint goal. If the new scrum agrees on a certain goal in a certain time, one should not do anything to change anything and disrupt the flow of the sprint.
Secondly, quality is of the utmost importance. Do not sacrifice quality for anything.
Thirdly, after the sprint, the product backlog is refined as required. Always stay updated with what happened and what is going to happen for the next day/week.
Lastly, the idea and scope of the project may be renegotiated and clarified with the product owner as time goes on. As you learn more about the project and understand more, such as, target audience, personas, product capabilities and more, you will learn more and you may be required to refine the product.

There are various practices and techniques for one to forecast progress but these are still risky to us. One cannot be sure of what will happen in the future. If we take a marketing agency as an example, new problems and situations come up every day. Knowing and predicting the future is difficult. What has happened in the past is the only solid basis of understanding and using the knowledge to look forward when it comes to decision making. 

Daily Meeting

The point of scrum is to solve problems quickly and effectively with a lot of work and communication. Daily scrum should also be a habit the team should pick up. Communication is essential to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and if changes need to happen, everyone is aware and agrees to the new changes. Therefore, a daily scrum of 15 to 20 minutes will be a healthy exercise for everyone to be sure they are working towards the same goal and reduce complexity.

The daily meeting will also serve the purpose of refining the sprint backlog when necessary and adjusting any upcoming planned work. The daily scrum must focus on progress towards the sprint goal and the discussions should lead to an actionable plan.

Sprint Review

An essential part of the process. The new scrum will need to evaluate and review the sprint that has taken place.

  • Has the sprint goal been achieved?
  • What problems were there?
  • How can we avoid such problems for our next effort?
  • Should we adopt any new framework to help us move faster?

These are questions that should be in constant rotation when reviewing the sprint, in order to learn and understand what went wrong and what went right. These questions also bleed into Sprint retrospective, which are ways to increase quality and effectiveness.

The Commitments

In 2017 there was only one mention of ‘Commitment’ but in the new scrum there are three commitments

  1. The product goal is the commitment for the product backlog
  2. The sprint goal is the commitment for the Sprint Backlog
  3. The definition of Done is the commitment for the Increment

These exist to create the most value from the Scrum team while also keeping the information which is most essential transparent. In the 2020 Scrum Guide, there are also mentions of ‘Artifacts’ which simply represent work or value done by the Scrum Team.

Final Words

As mentioned prior, this only scratched the surface of what the New Scrum Guide has to offer, and on par with the 2017 guide, a lot has changed. 

Your team needs to constantly keep on learning and educating themselves to learn new techniques to solve complex problems. As time goes on certain habits will become ingrained in normal day to day work life, and such routines become easier to establish. 

Ken Schwaber and Jeff  Sutherland updated their 2017 guidelines with the aim of ‘bringing Scrum back to being a minimally sufficient framework by removing or softening prescriptive language’. They wanted to clear the air with the new scrum guide, using simple words and removed anything that made the process difficult and complex to understand. It is now simpler to understand, and shorter.

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