what-is-scrum

What Is Scrum? The Agile Framework For An Effective Startup Process

Scrum is a methodology that Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland co-created for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

The seeds of the Scrum Methodology

In an article titled “The New Product Development Game” by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, the authors explained: 

“In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world of commercial new product development, speed and flexibility are essential. Companies are increasingly realizing that the old, sequential approach to developing new products simply won’t get the job done. Instead, companies in Japan and the United States are using a holistic method—as in rugby, the ball gets passed within the team as it moves as a unit up the field.”

And they further articulated: 

“This new emphasis on speed and flexibility calls for a different approach for managing new product development.”
 
This approach was emphasized based on the study of the then-successful tech companies such as Fuji-Xerox, Canon, Honda, NEC, Epson, Brother, 3M, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard. 
 
And it consisted of the so-called Scrum Downfield, which could be emphasized through six development processes: 
 
  1. Built-in instability.
  2. Self-organizing project teams.
  3. Overlapping development phases.
  4. “Multilearning.”
  5. Subtle control.
  6. Organizational transfer of learning.

Trust the process

While agile is a set of principles that drive the activities in software development.

Scrum is a methodology that applies those principles to make software development faster and more productive.

However, Scrum has also become a methodology for project management in the startup world.

When Jared Dunn (the character in the Silicon Valley Series), in the vest of a business developer, convinces Pied Piper’s founder, Richard Hendricks, to use the Scrum methodology, Richard is a skeptic.

Why would a group of smart software engineers fall into a management strategy?

Well, it turned out he was wrong.

In fact, Scrum is a process envisioned to make software development lighter, faster, and more suited to customers’ needs.

The method is now also used by startups for project management.

Yet, in reality, Scrum was a methodology born from the Agile Manifesto, a set of principles created in 2001 by software development experts.

Heavyweight vs. lightweight software development

The agile manifesto started out as a movement that wanted to challenge the assumption of the so-called heavyweight methods for software development that were based on more sophisticated and regulated approaches.

In fact, Scrum evolved as a lightweight software development method.

The main difference between heavyweight vs. lightweight is fundamental.

In fact, heavyweight software development methodologies, which prevailed a few decades back, consisted of many rules and protocols to follow.

Instead, a lightweight methodology is based on a few basic guiding principles. And it all started with the agile manifesto.

Agile manifesto: the guiding principles of Scrum methodology

In 2001, a group of seventeen software developers met to discuss these lightweight development methods, with the aim of challenging the old assumption of heavyweight software development.

They forged “The Agile Alliance,” as a group of independent thinkers about software development, which agreed on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Together they published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It comprises twelve guiding principles from which many applications (comprising Scrum) were born.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Some of those principles might be given for granted today, yet they were not at all back in 2001.

This manifesto has also become the founding document for the Scrum methodology.

What are the benefits of using Scrum?

The benefits of using Scrum can be linked to the advantage of using an agile development methodology.

Organizations that have adopted agile Scrum should experience the following:

  • Happier customers due to more responsive to development requests by the software development company
  • Higher returns are given by the ability of the software developer to focus on high-impacting features
  • Better organization of work based on the team’s ability to work together
  • Reduced time to market due to the more efficient organization

The core tenants of the Scrum Methodology

Before moving ahead with the core elements of the Scrum Methodology, let’s tackle the six key tenants of it based on the 1986 HBR piece, “The New New Product Development Game.”

Built-in instability

Here the top management assigned to develop a product gives the team the freedom to develop while manufacturing tension and constraint to enhance creativity for the project.

Self-organizing project teams

Another critical element of the Scrum Methodology is the flat structure of the development teams. 

This is established thourhg autonomy, self-transcendence, and cross-fertilization. 

Development teams start from first principles, developing their own concept without influence from other parts of the organization. 

Overlapping Development Phases

In this phase, while the team splits to tackle various tasks within a project, they all come together to overcome key obstacles in the process. 

So even when bottlenecks form, the team pushes things forward together to reach fast iteration even while these team members are working on parallel tasks. 

Multilearning

Multilearning consists of the ability of team members to work across multiple levels (individual, group, and corporate) and across multiple functions.

This makes them develop broader skills to tackle projects and overcome obstacles.

Subtle Control

Where the team has freedom in the development process, this freedom is not unconstrained. 

The management still sets checkpoints as boundaries in the process to prevent chaos. 

Transfer of Learning

For the whole process and methodology to effectively transfer learning within the team is critical. 

The Scrum elements

The Scrum methodology comprises three main components and a set of rules.

The Scrum Team

Within the team, there are three primary roles. It is important to remark that there is no hierarchy in the Scrum methodology.

But each of the team members will be accountable for a specific part of the project.

  • The Product Owner: this person is primarily accountable for managing the completed increments of work.
  • The ScrumMaster: this person does anything possible to help the team perform at the highest level.
  • The Development Team: There are no titles in the Development Team. The main aim is to break down the product into items that can be incrementally implemented.

Scrum Events (so-called Ceremonies)

  • The Sprint:  2-4 weeks period in which a specific part of the work is completed
  • Sprint Planning: those are meetings to assess which part of the product can be completed
  • The Daily Stand-up:  it is a short meeting of no more than 15 minutes to evaluate the progress of the project
  • The Sprint Review: a demonstration to present the work completed during the sprint
  • The Retrospective:  final team meeting to assess what worked and what didn’t to improve the process

Scrum Artifacts

  • Product Backlog: outlines every requirement for a system, project or product. It can be a to-do list consisting of work items
  • Sprint Backlog: list of items to be completed during the sprint
  • Increment: is the list of items completed after the last software release

Scrum Rules

The team will define those rules according to the organization’s values and expectations. Thus there isn’t a simple set of rules to follow.

Scrum guide

You can start right now to learn everything you need to know about Scrum from the official Scrum online guide.

Key takeaways

  • The Scrum methodology is based on the Agile Manifesto created in 2001.
  • However, its history dates back to 1986, when in an HBR article entitled “The New New Product Development,” Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka emphasized the core processes within the Scrum Methodology. 
  • It is a project management process whose primary aim is to make complex product development more effective.
  • This methodology that has mainly been used for software development can be applied to startup project management processes.
  • The important aspect of Scrum is that there are not hierarchical structures or roles.

Read Also: Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Read Next: Agile Methodology, Lean Methodology, Agile Project Management, Scrum, Kanban, Six Sigma.

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AgileSHIFT

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Agile Methodology

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Agile Leadership

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Bimodal Portfolio Management

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Business Model Innovation

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Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Constructive Disruption

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Continuous Innovation

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Design Sprint

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Design Thinking

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DevOps

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Dual Track Agile

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Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

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eXtreme Programming

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ICE Scoring

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Innovation Funnel

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Innovation Matrix

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Innovation Theory

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Lean Startup

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Kanban

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Rapid Application Development

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Scaled Agile

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Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.

Spotify Model

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Test-Driven Development

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As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.

Timeboxing

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Scrum

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Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

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The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

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