Aug. 2, 2016

The Scrum Guide updated for 2016

Highlights and comments on the 2016 update to the Scrum Guide and the associated message from Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in their recent video

The Scrum Guide is a simple definition of the Scrum framework created in 2011 by founders Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in the response the the rapidly growing popularity of Scrum. It has been updated a few times since, always aiming to clarify and simplify the description. The one and only change to the July 2016 edition of the Scrum Guide is the addition of the Scrum Values: Openness, Focus, Commitment, Respect and Courage. This is at once a trivial and an important change.

Ken and Jeff have released a video that explains the changes. I was fascinated to listen to their discourse about Scrum over the past 21 years. I’ll share a few of my highlights, including some quotes from the video.


Ken: “Scrum values are the life blood of Scrum. Scrum has artefacts, it has events, it has roles, but by itself that’s just like a skeleton. The values, the way people act and interact with each other, what they care about...is what makes it alive. [At Patient Keeper] I realised that there were some values that were really important for people using Scrum…[and created] a culture that would help people work together.”

These five values were documented in first book “Software Development Scrum” in 2001. Ken again: “Organisations that respect these values...are great places to work. When they are not embracing these values and the culture that goes with it, it is very sterile.”

Feedback from readers voted 3:1 for adding the values to the Scrum Guide. Ken: “This actually puts the heart back into it.”

The five Scrum values

Commitment: people personally commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team

People in the Scrum Team are committed to themselves, each other, what they take on in the Sprint Planning. The sprint in Scrum is a short enough time-frame that [the Scrum Team] can commit to do their best. Considering the empirical process pillars of transparency, inspection and adaptation and the realisation that change is hard, commitment becomes essential to succeed. J: “It’s commitment to being better people, better teams, better companies…it’s about commitment to life."

Focus: everyone focuses on the work of the Sprint and the goals of the Scrum Team

Having committee to the sprint goal the Scrum Team needs to focus on making it happen. 

Openness: the Scrum Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work

Jeff: “In order to understand where you are headed, whether you are going to get there, everything needed to be visible. In order to get the best ideas... everybody needs to have a voice…make everything transparent and have the meetings be open and have everybody know everything that is going on. Only then can you steer things in the right direction and only then can you actually have an accurate forecast of delivery. we wanted to overcome this tremendous problem we’ve had with traditional project development where you never know when they can deliver. when the date comes you’re always late and often you don’t know how late it is.”

Ken: “Software Development is by and large invisible, so there is no way someone can come over to it and look and understand how things are going. This is asking people to share the issues they are running into, the things they are worried about, problems they are working on, how they could help each other, so they can work as a team to work on things which otherwise aren’t visible. And this is very counter-culture, because we tend to not want to share what might be perceived as weaknesses or shortcomings or failures…they are not…software development is very difficult.”

Jeff: The linkage back to lean—Taiichi Ohno said the most important thing to know is what is your biggest problem, because all continuous improvement efforts drive off of that…requires real honesty, openness, trust.” Ken adds that purpose of adding the Daily Scrum was to drive this openness.

Respect: Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people

Ken: “This is a respect for people as they are with their strengths and their weaknesses and trying to work with them to help them to the best you can to delivery the best product you can. It is so easy to judge other people and create dysfunctional relationships where you have found them inferior and you are superior and teamwork utterly falls apart at that point.”

Jeff: “So you can’t have openness without respect [tweet this quote snippet; consider linking to the video at the exact mm:ss when he says this ;-)] and there are so many companies that are run with a culture of blame. they are always looking around: ‘who screwed that up?’ and that means everybody is sitting around covering their but, not telling the truth, trying to hide things. You can’t get functional companies with that kind of environment.” Ken: “A good Scrum Team is a microcosm of a good organisation, a good company, a good society, a good culture.”

Jeff: in 1995 venture capitalists said of Scrum ‘that will never work’...In a venture investment you are always making the decision based on the future. anything you’ve spent is gone and if you get tied up n the history and blaming someone it prevents you from making adequate investments…today the VCs are much better than most companies at executing Scrum.”

Courage: the Scrum Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems

Jeff: “To be open, to put your problems on the table, to be transparent, that requires the ability to take risk. Change takes risk. Managers are afraid that their roles are going to change and many of them don’t have the courage to make that transition. Courage is fundamental. Ken: “The other values don't work without courage. You can’t possibly be open and committed and focussed and respect other people if you don’t have courage to take the downside. Something that isn’t necessarily appreciated a lot in Scrum is it’s got a safety net. You never are investing our committing to more than one sprint’s worth of work...You have the courage to try it for this period of time and see how it works.”

The remainder of the video dealt with some questions. My favourites are:

On Scrum add-ons — Ken: “Let’s cover up the problem by changing Scrum so the problem is OK.” “Can you tell me what your definition of Done is?”

On scaling — Jeff: “A lot of [scaling frameworks] distort Scrum….and introduce a lot of waste into the system.” Ken: “How do you know you need 800 people?” 

On changes over the 20 years since the start of Scrum — Jeff: “Scale at which it is happening”. Ken: “In1995 software was not prevalent…it now holds our society together…it would not have happened without the kernel of Scrum…it is the enabler.”

Scrum has changed my life. What about you?

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Peter Hundermark

Peter has worked with iterative and incremental software development processes since 1999, focusing on Scrum and Agile practices since 2006. In 2007 he started Scrum Sense in South Africa. He has introduced Scrum into scores of development teams locally and in Brazil. He leads certified Scrum training classes in South Africa and elsewhere. He is a Certified Scrum Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer.
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Image of peterhundermark

Peter Hundermark

Peter has worked with iterative and incremental software development processes since 1999, focusing on Scrum and Agile practices since 2006. In 2007 he started Scrum Sense in South Africa. He has introduced Scrum into scores of development teams locally and in Brazil. He leads certified Scrum training classes in South Africa and elsewhere. He is a Certified Scrum Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer.

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