New Scrum Guide

There was a new version of ScrumGuide published last week. And I have to say that I mostly like it. It’s lighter, less prescriptive, and simple. Here are a few differences.

#1 – Scrum Guide 2020 is Simple and Clear

Scrum Guide 2020 is clearer. Finally, there is a sentence that is easy to read, and that describes what Scrum is:

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:

  1. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
  2. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
  3. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
  4. Repeat

Scrum is simple.

Yes, Scrum is simple and so the Scum Guide. It’s easy to read and understand. With this version, we got rid of many long and complicated phrases full of details. For example, one of my favorite changes in this space is that daily Scrum finally not suggesting the three questions but recommend that people “can select whatever structure and techniques they want, as long as their Daily Scrum focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal…” Isn’t that awesome? After all those years of individual status meetings where people were reporting to someone what they did. It’s finally gone!

#2 – Focusing on the Mindset

I like the fact that the new Scrum Guide stresses the three empirical pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation and explains what are they about. The five values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage are clearly defined there now as well. It focuses on people’s behavior, over the processes and practices.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to remind us about the primary need for Agile and Scrum in complex and unpredictable environments: In complex environments, what will happen is unknown. Only what has already happened may be used for forward-looking decision making.” All over, if you know what needs to be done, can plan it, then all you need to focus on is how fast are you going to deliver it. In such a world all different estimation techniques, velocity, burn-down, and burn-up charts are considered useful. Unlike Scrum, which builds on empiricism and inspects and adapts the plans on the way.

#3 – Scrum Team Focus

The biggest change seems to be that we don’t have “Development Team”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner but “Developers”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner forming a Scrum Team together. It looks like a big change, but it’s rather cosmetic as they all have to collaborate and self-organize (or self-manage if you like) to maximize value towards the Sprint and Product Goal. So, no real change there, we’ve just finally got rid of the very typical dysfunction where the Product Owner was like an enemy and the team was delivering to the Product Owner only. Now there is no such mentality in the Scrum team, they are in it together, responsible for all product-related activities. They are a team in the first place, a team that is cross-functional so can deliver end-to-end value together. ‘Developers’ is a poor name, as most people somehow read it as software developers but it’s more like a product workers. They are still the people who create working product increment every Sprint, while Product Owner focuses on maximizing the value and ScrumMaster on improving teams and organizations.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to make the scaling approach clearer than before: “If Scrum Teams become too large, they should consider reorganizing into multiple cohesive Scrum Teams, each focused on the same product. Therefore, they should share the same Product Goal, Product Backlog, and Product Owner.”

#4 – Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and Increment

Finally, the last change is the new language about Product Goal (new) and Sprint Goal (improved), and Increment (clarified). All over the Scrum Guide is catching up with the industry and adding a Product Goal as an artifact. It also provides a definition of a product, which is much broader than many organizations think: “A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users, or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract.” Product Goal is a long-term objective for the scrum team – a vision. Sprint Goal gives meaning to each sprint and defines the value we are focusing on now. The increment is a useful output. Well done, verified, and delivering value towards the Sprint Goal. Simple and straightforward. Finally, there is a much better language about the Definition of Done: “The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born.” It’s almost like a poem.

All over, I really like the new version. It doesn’t change much from what I was teaching and using, just brings a more clear and crisp definition of Scrum as I know it.

Barriers of Agility

In most of the surveys about barriers of agility in organizations, you learn that the top three places are culture, structure, and leadership. There is no surprise. Organizations were designed for a different world where you can analyze the situation, plan what you are going to do, cascade the goals through the organization, and deliver it accordingly with minimum change requests, simply for the predictable world. The problem is that in the last decades the world has become less predictable and changes were more frequent, the VUCA challenges overtake our everyday life reality and the organizations realized they are too slow to respond. Like dinosaurs thousands of years ago. Change is inevitable. Analyzing, planning, and following the plan is not an option anymore.

Innovations, creativity, and flexibility are new norm and organizations which can create environments where teams are self-organized, collaborate on maximizing the business value, and co-creating the organizational goals are taking over positions in the Fortune 100 list. Most of the big corporations are still in the cage of the old-world reality. They optimize for speed. But speed is not that important asset anymore as going fast in the wrong direction doesn’t lead anywhere. Instead, we need flexible environments optimized for creativity. Thinking about flexibility, the organizational structure needs to change to allow it. Departments focused on competences or components, not business value, is meaningless. They kill creativity. Hierarchy keeps responsibility by the managers and prevents people from taking ownership and decide themselves. Again, it kills creativity.

Culturally the traditional organizations are leaning towards competing over collaborating, and controlling over creating. The practices of detailed positions, reward systems, performance reviews, and individual goals and objectives are keeping the organizations in competing and controlling quadrants.

Finally, the leadership needs to change significantly. Traditional organizations were expecting leaders to be Experts or Achievers. Agile organizations need Catalysts. They need leaders who are visionary, purpose-driven, are able to see the business and organizations from different perspectives. They enhance collaboration and are good at building teams and networks. They search for win-win solutions, are good coaches, and helping others to grow. They support running experiments and use failure as learning.

All over we can say that Agile Organization needs different leaders, cultures, and structures. You don’t have to start with changing all of them at once, but sooner or later such change is inevitable. The fewer barriers you give agility on the way, the more likely the frameworks, methods, and practices make a difference and help you to be successful in the VUCA world.