Core Scrum — Values and roles

Values from the Agile Manifesto

Scrum is the best known of the Agile frameworks. It is the source of much of the thinking behind the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, which forms a common basis for all of these approaches.

The Agile Manifesto values apply directly to Scrum:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Scrum, like all the Agile frameworks and methods, relies directly on trust in teams, the individuals in the teams, and the way they interact. Teams figure out what is to be done, teams figure out how to do it, and teams do it. Teams identify what's getting in their way, and they take the responsibility to resolve all the difficulties that are within their scope. Teams work with other parts of the organization to resolve the concerns that are outside their control. This is critical. Trying to do Scrum but undermining this primary focus on team responsibility and autonomy will generally lead to trouble.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation. Scrum requires a working, finished increment of the product as the primary result of every sprint. Certainly there will be analysis work, design work, and testing work, all of which may need to be documented. But it is having a result (working software) that allows the organization to guide the project to success. This is critical. Scrum teams must produce a product increment in every sprint.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. The Scrum product owner is the Scrum team's prime point of contact with the eventual end users of the product. The product owner is a member of the team and works collaboratively with the team to determine what needs to be done. In this collaboration, the product owner selects the most valuable next things to do, ensuring that the product has the highest possible value at every point in time. This is critical. The product owner needs to build a rich collaboration with the team.
  • Responding to change over following a plan. Everything about Scrum is designed to make sure that everyone has the information they need to make good decisions about the project. The project's progress is represented by a real, running product increment. The backlog of things to be done is available for all to see. Progress, both overall and sprint by sprint, is clearly visible. Problems and concerns are discussed openly and dealt with immediately. This is critical. Scrum works well for teams that openly inspect what's going on and adapt their actions to the reality. It works poorly for those who do not.

Scrum values

All work performed in Scrum needs a firm foundation of values for the team's process and principles. With its emphasis on teamwork and continuous improvement, Scrum both creates those values and relies on them. The values are focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect. From the team's perspective, the values offer the following guides:

  • Focus. Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
  • Courage. Because we are not alone, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
  • Openness. As we work together, we practice expressing how we're doing and what's in our way. We learn that it is good to express concerns so that they can be addressed.
  • Commitment. Because we have great control over our own destiny, we become more committed to success.
  • Respect. As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.
If an organization will let Scrum do its work, everyone involved will discover the benefits and will begin to understand why Scrum both engenders and relies upon these values.


The Scrum framework

Scrum is a framework for building a product.

Scrum is also a team process that begins when stakeholders need a product. The Scrum team includes three roles: the product owner, the ScrumMaster, and the members of the development team. These roles are further described below. The product is built incrementally over a series of short time periods called sprints. A sprint is a fixed time period, up to four weeks long but with a preference toward shorter intervals. During each sprint, the Scrum team builds and delivers a product increment. Each increment is a recognizable, visibly improved, operating subset of the product, meeting understood acceptance criteria and built to a level of quality referred to as the Definition of Done.

Scrum includes three essential artifacts: the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the product increment. The product backlog is the list of ideas for the product, in the order we expect to build them. The sprint backlog is the detailed plan for development during the next sprint. The product increment, a required result of every sprint, is an integrated version of the product, kept at high enough quality to be shippable if the product owner chooses to ship it.

In addition, Scrum requires transparency within the team and with the stakeholders. Therefore the Scrum team produces visible displays of plans and progress.

Scrum also includes five activities or meetings. These are the backlog refinement, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective.


Scrum roles

Product owner

The product owner has responsibility for deciding what work will be done. This is the single individual who is responsible for bringing forward the most valuable product possible by the desired date. The product owner does this by managing the flow of work to the team, selecting and refining items from the product backlog. The product owner maintains the product backlog and ensures that everyone knows what is on it and what the priorities are. The product owner may be supported by other individuals but must be a single person.

Certainly the product owner is not solely responsible for everything. The entire Scrum team is responsible for being as productive as possible, for improving its practices, for asking the right questions, for helping the product owner.

Nonetheless, the product owner, in Scrum, is in a unique position. The product owner is typically the individual closest to the "business side" of the project. The product owner is charged by the organization to "get this product out" and is the person who is expected to do the best possible job of satisfying all the stakeholders. The product owner does this by managing the product backlog and by ensuring that the backlog, and progress against it, is kept visible.

The product owner, by choosing what the development team should do next and what to defer, makes the scope-versus-schedule decisions that should lead to the best possible product.

Development team member

The development team is made up of the professionals who do the work of delivering the product increment. Scrum requires that the development team be a cross-functional group of people who, as a group, have all the necessary skills to deliver each increment of the product.

The development team members are expected to be available to the project full time, not splitting their time over numerous projects. They have the responsibility of self-organizing to accomplish each sprint goal, producing each new product increment according to each sprint plan.

The product owner makes an ordered list of what needs to be done; the development team members forecast how much they can do in one sprint, and they decide how they are going to do it.

ScrumMaster

The ScrumMaster is a "servant leader" who helps the rest of the Scrum team follow the process. The ScrumMaster must have a good understanding of the Scrum framework and the ability to train others in its subtleties.

The ScrumMaster helps the product owner understand how to create and maintain the product backlog. He or she works with the entire Scrum team to evolve the Definition of Done. The ScrumMaster also works with the development team to find and implement the technical practices needed to get to Done at the end of each sprint.

Another responsibility of the ScrumMaster is to remove impediments to the team’s progress. These impediments may be external to the team (such as a lack of support from another team) or internal (such as the product owner not knowing how to properly prepare the product backlog). That said, the ScrumMaster fosters self-organization, meaning that the team itself should remove issues wherever possible.

The ScrumMaster may facilitate meetings and always acts as a coach for the Scrum team, helping it execute the Scrum process. He or she helps team members work together and learn the Scrum framework, and protects them from both internal and external distractions. The ScrumMaster keeps the Scrum team on track, productive, and growing in ability.

Ultimately, the ScrumMaster is responsible for ensuring that Scrum is understood and in place, inside the team and outside. He or she helps people outside the team understand the process and the kinds of interactions with the team that are helpful (and those that are not). The ScrumMaster helps everyone improve to make the Scrum team more productive and valuable.

For more advanced Scrum topics, including GASPs, visit the Agile Atlas.