Download The Scrum Framework: At a Glance for a visual guide to how all the pieces work together.
People are the focus of Scrum.
Scrum organizes projects using cross-functional Scrum Teams, each one of which has all of the capabilities necessary to deliver a piece of functionality from idea to delivery.
What Is a Sprint?
Scrum Teams work in short timeframes called sprints. Sprints can be as short as one week or as long as one month. Sprints happen one right after the other, with no breaks, to maintain a steady project cadence.
Each sprint begins with a plan and ends with a review of the work completed and an additional review of the way in which the team worked together. (See events to learn more)
During each sprint, the entire Scrum Team works together to complete one or more increments of a larger overall product or project. Each completed increment must be potentially releasable, meaning that it could theoretically be delivered as is. In other words, each increment must be fully tested and fully approved by the end of the sprint.
How Do Sprints & Increments Allow Scrum Teams to Inspect and Adapt?
The idea is to deliver small batches of functionality that stakeholders can see and inspect at the end of every Sprint. Then, based on that feedback, the Scrum Team can adapt their plans for the next batch of functionality. By learning early what works and what doesn’t and whether an increment matches stakeholder expectations, the Scrum Team is ultimately able to deliver a full product that both satisfies and also delights customers.
How Do Sprints Reinforce the 3 Pillars of Empirical Process Control?
Remember that the 3 pillars of empirical process control are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Breaking work into short timeframes increases the number of opportunities for the Scrum Team (including the product owner) to inspect the product and adapt what is built moving forward. A traditional 6-month waterfall project typically has only 1-2 stopping points, milestones, where the stakeholders can inspect the work--and very limited and expensive chances to adapt.
A 6-month project using an agile framework like Scrum, however, typically has 6-12 opportunities to inspect and adapt the work, depending on how long each sprint is.
These end-of-each-sprint opportunities to inspect and adapt also increase transparency because stakeholders and senior management are invited to view and give feedback on what is being created at the end of every sprint, which translates into as often as every week or at worst every month.
For more on the theory behind Scrum’s inspect and adapt and empirical process control activities, see Scrum Theory.
Though Scrum began as a way to develop software, Scrum is currently used in a variety of industries to successfully deliver all kinds of work products; see Benefits.