Is Scrum needed to be Agile?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Let us embrace first principles thinking before we answer the Most Valuable Question,

Is Scrum needed to be Agile? 

In simple terms, Agile means the ability to move quickly and easily in any given situation. In the product development space, Agile means the ability to pivot or persevere the Product to serve or deliver value to the customer or consumer using simplicity and being responsive.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

“It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of species that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin, English naturalist, geologist and biologist

Now let us apply the same thinking to Scrum as it is simple yet powerful due to its roots in empiricism. It is a lightweight framework to identify and employ a purpose-based process for identifying better ways of working to build products in an ever-changing ecosystem.

Predominately any organization that intends to commence an agile transformation journey would choose “Scrum” for two concrete reasons,

  1. It is simple to put into practice. 
  2. Also, any scaling framework available in the industry begins with the implementation of Scrum. 

Hence without any second thought, the answer would be “Yes” for the question posed pertinent to the topic under discussion. 

Also, the recent empirical data in the State of 15th State of Agile Report, which indicates that 66% of organizations use “Scrum” as part of their agile ways of working.

The next question that pops into our mind is What purpose is it serving to embrace Scrum as the way of working to be Agile? To answer this question, let us identify the correlated patterns between Agile and Scrum. I would like to pick cues from the famous universal response to the question What is Agile in the context of Software development?

Agile is a mindset 🧠 manifested with four values ☸️ and bounded by 12 principles and put into action using a myriad of frameworks, methods, tools, etc., that must complement each other to deliver value.

Now let us explore the synergy using Scrum as means and the manifestation of Agile values within the Scrum Framework that will serve as empirical evidence to everyone.

Agile Manifesto

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

4. Responding to change over following a plan

Illustration of Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Scrum is a purpose-based framework to deliver value at a sustainable pace. It is nurtured by simple rules and guiding principles that enable the individuals like people to interact effectively to deliver value to the customer in a sustainable way with the help of Scrum events. 

Although processes and tools are necessary to employ the Scrum framework, unless the people and organizations understand its core purpose and interact with the shared accountability in mind, no process or tool will be able to create the desired outcome or an enduring impact.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

According to my experience, Scrum’s sole and whole purpose can be narrowed to just one line. It would be as follows, 

“deliver value with built-in quality by reducing risk at a sustainable pace ”.

Although there are several resources available similar to Agile on the internet describing ways to learn about Scrum Framework or implement the Scrum framework, be it a checklist or cheat sheets. Its purpose for existence will serve the world only when it creates usable, valuable empirical evidence. It is possible by either delivering value or learning from the experience anytime every Sprint.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In Scrum, collaboration is the critical factor for the entire team to deliver value. The Scrum Events provide ample opportunities for the Scrum Team to collaborate with key stakeholders as needed, both formally and informally, rather than limiting it to a contractual agreement.

For instance, during the Sprint Review, formally, the customers or the user of the product would be invited by the Product Owner to validate the product experience in terms of usability and accessibility, etc. The Scrum Team members can gain valuable feedback to optimize the experience of the future capabilities forecasted in the Product. 

It is also an invaluable opportunity for the key stakeholders to share the product’s viability amidst the current market conditions. Furthermore, to learn and experience listening to the customer(s) who are using the product day in and day out. This enables the stakeholders to make informed decisions about the investment strategy to be considered by them.

Responding to change over following a plan

As we all know that Scrum is built using the pillars of empirical process control, namely inspection, adaptation, and transparency. In a Product development space, the plan is validated throughout Sprint in a continuous fashion rather than being rigid over an initial plan.

 Every essential element of the Scrum framework embraces empiricism, like the Scrum events provided an opportunity to inspect and adapt the Scrum artefacts aligning to their commitments. For instance, the Product Goal aligns with the Product Strategy, the Sprint Goal is an objective targeted to every Sprint, and the Definition of Done reflects the quality standards of the Product and organizational standards considered while building the Product. The Scrum events ensure that we can constantly and consistently respond to the changes rather than limiting ourselves to a mere plan of assumptions.

The Sprint provides a conducive container for the Scrum Team and the stakeholders to collaborate at a sustainable pace to deliver value by using empirical process control to limit risk and improve predictability.

The Sprint Planning event provides an opportunity for the entire Scrum Team to collaborate and co-create a shared Sprint Goal complemented by the emergent Sprint Backlog and actionable plan to accomplish it.

The Daily Scrum event provides an opportunity for all developers to collaborate daily to inspect the progress so far and to adapt the subsequent activities if needed to achieve the Sprint Goal.

The Sprint Review event provides an opportunity for the entire Scrum Team to collaborate with the Stakeholders to inspect the increment to gain possible insights from the customer experience and feedback to adapt the will be built by the developers in forthcoming Sprint(s). Also, accordingly adapt the future potential work items associated with the Product Backlog aligning to changes occurring in the market.

The Sprint Retrospective event provides an opportunity for the entire Scrum Team to collaborate using self-reflecting techniques to identify any feedforward actions that lead to continuous improvement of themselves or the quality of the product using the “Definition of Done” artefact based on the changes experienced in terms of Process, Product capabilities, and Engineering practices.

Closing Thoughts

I want to remind everyone willing to embark on an Agile journey to focus on iterative and incremental ways to embrace change. I genuinely believe that Scrum as a framework can be a suitable means as it embraces both iterative and incremental ways of engaging people to solve challenges in a complex adaptive ecosystem. Also, it provides a solid foundation to add other complementary practices like Kanban, Design Thinking, etc., to attain sustainable growth.

Next, let us explore the synergy between Scrum and Agile Principles in the upcoming blog until then, Scrum On!

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