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Excitement is in air. The new scrum guide is out. Like always there is a great curiosity among agile enthusiasts to see how the guide to scrum is evolving. This article attempts to capture this very aspect. Here, in this article I have articulated my understanding and perspective on how the guide has evolved in its latest avatar.

Length of the Scrum Guide reduced – Now more Precise

First thing I noticed was the length of the guide – it has been reduced further. I certainly do not think that the authors had page count reduction as a specific objective in mind – However as they have put elegantly in this version, “The Scrum framework is purposefully incomplete” I see this as the driving theme behind quite a few of the changes. The reduction in page count derives from the very fact that the guide now has sharpened the focus on scrum being a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.” The guide now is consciously moving away from being prescriptive and the core theme revolves around Value

Focus of Scrum changed from being a “process framework” to being a “individuals and interactions” focus

In fact, the scrum guide no longer says that Scrum is a “process framework. It very clearly states “Rather than provide people with detailed instructions, the rules of Scrum guide their relationships and interactions.” I believe, this was always the intent but articulating it so transparently, the guide is reiterating the belief that people are founding formation that continually delivers value and scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate this said value.

With the increased focus on people- their relationships and interactions, there are a few changes in how the guide describes the people aspect of scrum guide: the roles and the team interaction.

Articulation of scrum as the framework that guides interactions and relationship between people is further cemented when the guide refers to scrum team as the “The fundamental unit of Scrum”. Ownership of value is shared between the entire scrum team. The roles now have morphed in accountabilities, more or less the accountabilities remain same – the change of term makes the difference between responsibilities and accountability abundantly clear while keeping over all ownership of value delivery with the team. This Scrum team is made up of a group of 10 people consisting of a Scrum Master, a Product owner and Developers. This count of 10 now covers the entire Scrum Team rather than the 3-9 limit for the erstwhile development team. In a small change in wording the development team is now referred as “developers”. This further progresses the idea about whole of team being one scrum team.

Scrum – “Purposefully Incomplete”

Beautiful way of clarifying to many who expect lots of details in Scrum. It emphasizes the importance of collective intelligence which defines Scrum rather than giving detailed instructions. Clearly now the emphasis on Scrum being a framework rather than a detailed methodology.

Definition of Empiricism – now more precise

Empiricism is now defined as “Making decisions based on what is observed”. This is a much better wording than “Making decisions based on what is known”. Removes ambiguity around the word “known”.

“Product” and “Product Goal” – Now defined formally

The product is now formally defined as a vehicle to deliver value.  This makes it clear that value is of importance – whether the value is delivered by a service, an abstract concept or a physical product does not matter.

Product Goal is also now formally defined. This makes the objective of each product very clear.

Ambiguity with the Development Team and Scrum Team removed

Now there is only one team and that is “The Scrum Team”. Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers are part of the Scrum Team. Hence the ambiguity whether the Product Owner/Scrum Master are part of the team or not is removed. Now it is very clear that there is only one team and that is the Scrum Team which consists of Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Developers.

Organizing larger Scrum Teams – now clearly defined

It is now clarified on how the Scrum Teams scale. For larger products, the teams could be organized with multiple Scrum teams however, the Scrum Teams share a Product Backlog, Product Goal and a Product Owner.

“Commitment” associated with each Scrum Artifact

This theme of transparently stating the focus to be value and not the process continues and each of the 3 artifact now is associated with a clear commitment. This commitment ensures that the artifact provides information that enhances transparency and focus against which progress can be measured. For the Product Backlog the commitment is the Product Goal. For the Sprint Backlog it is the Sprint Goal. For the Increment it is the Definition of Done.

Product goal is a new term introduced and defined as “the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.”

Increment – now more clarity

The guide also clarifies that multiple increments can be a part of the same sprint as long as the sprint goal is intact. For the first time definition of “Done” is now clearly called out as quality measure.

Sprint Planning – more clarity

One event which is described with more clarity is Sprint Planning – The objective of sprint goal definition is now highlighted as the deciding fulcrum of the Sprint since the Sprint goal is now  visibly tied to the value a sprint brings. The erstwhile guide talked about topic one and topic two as “what and how” part of the planning. The latest guide divides the planning in 3 topics – why , what and how. This brings a better flow and central idea about Value delivered being the core of each sprint gets re affirmed.

Scrum Master clarified as a Leadership Role

The accountabilities and characteristics of the scrum master have also evolved in this guide. One key verbiage change is the Scrum Master is not referred as a Servant leader but “who serves the Scrum Team and the larger organization”. While seemingly small change it clarifies that Scrum Master is indeed a leader, a leader who leads by serving.

Self Organized to Self Managed

The word “Self-Organized” has been updated to “Self-Managed”. I believe, the essence remains the same. The independent and contained nature of the Scrum Team – which “manages its own work” is better conveyed by the word “Self-Managed”

Definition of Done – A Quality Measure

Now it is crystal clear on what Definition of Done is. Most people implemented DoD as nothing but acceptance criteria. Now clarity has been created on DoD being a “Quality Measure”. This removes a lot of ambiguity on what DoD really is.

Prescriptive Stuff removed

Prescriptive stuff around conduct of Sprint Review and Retrospective is removed. In sprint review a big portion of text surrounding on how to conduct the review is removed – the event description now focuses on sprint review being a collaboration event. How to structure the event is being left to the discretion of teams working within Scrum boundaries. Same thing can be seen for Sprint Retrospective, the detailing around how the event is structured is now replaced by a concise text about the purpose of event which “is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.” The guide no longer states that the event is about “creating a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.” But emphasizes on a more long-term objective of ongoing attention to increasing quality.

The guide no longer mandates that the sprint plan contains “at least one high priority process improvement identified in the previous Retrospective meeting.” The guide still does state the importance of implementing the improvement items quickly but it stops short of getting prescriptive and mandating how and when these items are implemented.

Prescription of “usually 10% of time for product backlog refinement” is removed.

Attributes of Product Backlog Items has been removed and in fact, it is made more generic by saying “Attributes often vary with the domain of work”

Daily Scrum – the details around the 3 Questions has been removed. Even though the three questions were made optional in the 2017 Scrum guide, the three questions remained a major roadblock during implementation of Scrum. The three questions disturbed the flow of the Daily Scrum from being an inspect and adapt forum to a status meeting.

Conclusion

Friends, as the heading said – These are my views on what has changed with the new scrum guide. It is equally important to ponder  upon what has not changed. While the lightweight framework has become more nimble, the core of Scrum – Scrum Theory, principles of empiricism and  the Scrum values remain unchanged. Anytime you have a confusion while you are  on your journey discover scrum, these are the beacons that will guide your way forward.