What’s new in the Scrum Guide 2020

Celebrating 25 years of Scrum, co-creators Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber released a practical set of changes to the Scrum Guide in Nov, 2020.

Scrum has gained rapid adoption across manufacturing, marketing, sales, HR, procurement, services in addition to the common belief of it being a development only framework.

Some of the key highlights of the changes are:

  • Removal of the Daily Scrum questions to make it more pragmatic
  • No sub teams within Scrum Team
  • Focus on the Product Goal
  • Addition of “Commitments” to Sprint Backlog, Product Backlog and Increments
  • Moving from Self- Organizing to Self-Managing teams
  • Radical shift of the Scrum Master’s servant leader to a True Leader role
  • Additional emphasis on Sprint Planning – Why is this Sprint valuable?

Scrum Framework(Source-theliberators.com)

Daily Scrum Questions

Previously Daily Scrum meetings were driven by 3 questions

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

This led to a narrowed focus by the development team and the overall agenda of the Daily Scrum.

The focus has now shifted more towards

  • Inspecting the progress towards the sprint goal
  • Adjusting of the sprint backlog as necessary
  • Identify impediments, freedom to choose techniques the team will work with the meet the sprint goal
  • Improve communications, collaboration and reduce needs of additional meetings

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Overall, instead of being driven by pre-defined questions, the daily scrum is an event where teams discuss means to meet the sprint goals based on practical real-time observations.

While the fundamentals of the Daily Scrum remain unchanged, the key is to moving from self-organizing to self managing teams in the interest of the sprint goal.

Scrum Team Only

Earlier there was a concept of a development team within the Scrum Team. This is now done away with.

There is only ONE Scrum Team that includes a Product Owner, Scrum Master and developers. One team of professionals with a single agenda of delivering the Product Goal.

The concept of cross-functional skills within the scrum team remains unchanged.

However, as is the case with large products and large scrum teams, the scrum team is divided further into individual scrum teams to maintain the essence of a self-managing scrum team size of 10 or fewer members.

Here, the product owner, product goal and backlog is shared by the different scrum teams.

Basically, ONE Product Owner, Product Backlog and Product Goal.

Focus on the Product Goal

Product Goal is a major addition to the 2020 Scrum Guide. Product Goal provides absolute clarity and focus to the scrum team and clearly defines the future state of the product.

The product goal is what drives the product backlog.

Product goal is a long term vision and is listed within the Product Backlog.

Thee product backlog is driven in a way to meet the product goal. I.e. what must go into the product, when and how and if the specific product backlog item actually contributes to the product goal are some of the key considerations.

Formalizing Commitment for the Scrum Artefacts

Sprint Goal and Definition of Done were loosely coupled with the Sprint and product increments.

But with the addition of “commitments” the whole system is closed loop and more transparent.

  • Product Backlog has the commitment towards the Product Goal
  • Sprint Backlog has Sprint Goal
  • Increments have Definition of Done

The addition of commitments makes it easier for the Scrum Team to breakdown the overarching product goal to incremental sprint goals. Each sprint must take you closer to the product goal.

Sprint goal is a single objective to be met by the Sprint, is planned during the sprint planning and added to the Sprint Backlog.

The major benefit is that the team’s prime objective is to meet the sprint goal. And if actual work deviates from meeting it, they work with the Product Owner to negotiate the scope of the sprint backlog to ensure the Sprint goal remains unchanged.

Similarly each “Acceptable Increment”is one step closer to the product goal.

What this means is an increment is accepted when it works cohesively with all previous increments & delivers the intended value.

In essence an increment is a product backlog item that has met the definition of done, is usable and delivers value.

Self-Managing over Self-Organizing

The key change in moving from self-organizing to self-managing is the addition of “What to work” to the prior list of Who and how to work in the 2017 scrum guide.

This directly relates to the Scrum Team being more focused on deciding what to work to move closer to the product goal.

There is added transparency and autonomy within the Scrum Team to ensure the respective commitments are met.

This is a welcome addition based on practical observations where development teams are not just expected to work out of a predefined set of tasks in a sprint.

The autonomy allows them to decide on key aspects that will lead to seamless progress towards the product goal.

True Leader vs Servant Leader

The 2020 Scrum Guide does away with the term Servant Leader. Scrum Master Role was considered as an overhead as they were seen to be more prescriptive and not of enough value within organizations that weren’t very agile mature.

Scrum Masters have now been looked up to for agile transformation and reaping benefits of the agile framework.

More and more delivery managers and project managers will now be required to have the agile mind set to begin with.

There are significant numbers of Scrum Master Requirements across organizations the world over as agile continues to move into mainstream operations.

Scrum Masters were predominantly seen as a guide or teacher role to help practice scrum. But over the last two decades they are expected to:

  • Act as facilitators & mentors
  • Improve collaboration
  • Reduce barriers between stakeholders and the scrum team
  • Be accountable alongside the Product Owner to help the scrum team meet the product goal

Why is this Sprint Valuable?

This is another major addition to the 2020 Scrum Guide.

Sprint Planning is where the Product Owner outlines his list of product backlog that will increase the value and utility of the overall product.

And the important question – Why is this Sprint valuable – is then answered by the Scrum Team collaboratively. The idea is to communicate why the sprint is valuable to the stakeholders and why the sprint must be undertaken.

The Product Owner is Stakeholders’ voice. And the stakeholders work closely with the product owner to drive maximum ROI out of the product.

Every sprint must stay true to its commitment that is the sprint goal which in turn ties back to the overall product goal.

This is where it becomes important to communicate the sprint value to the stakeholders to maintain the required stakeholder engagement and commitment to the overall product goal.

Wrapping Words

All in all the 2020 Scrum Guide update is a welcome move as it is based on inputs from practical problems, observations and the lean approach.

Instead of being a set of rules or being prescriptive, the focus is on agile practitioners to implement Scrum based on ground realities and experience with guidance from the Scrum Guide.

The overall essence, scrum events, principles and values remain unchanged.

The key driver is to enable more and more organizations to implement scrum framework in a more context sensitive manner as required by their Scrum Teams.

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