3 Pillars of Scrum: Inspection

While traditional product development techniques segment a team’s efforts into a series of linear, distinct stages, Scrum instead encourages teams to embrace a more dynamic workflow using empirical process control. Inspection is one of the 3 pillars to making an empirical process control work.

Rather than waiting for lengthy development cycles to play out in their entirety, empirical process control calls for continuous adjustment and incremental improvement, requiring contributors to constantly pause and reflect.

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While there are a variety of crucial elements embedded in empirical systems, it is the following three pillars of Scrum that are crucial to the effectiveness of the process: transparency, inspection, and adaptation

In a previous blog post, we zeroed in on transparency- without a sense of openness and honesty about our work, the other steps in empirical process control are impossible to achieve. 

Once transparency is implemented, teams can begin to truly improve and grow, uncovering insights and opportunities through the second empirical principle: inspection.

What is Inspection 

While transparency encourages everyone to lay their cards on the table, inspection ensures all players know how to play the hand they were dealt. No matter how open and honest your team members are, it won’t make a difference if you don’t leave space for reflection. 

This isn’t just reserved for some singular moment in time, either. A skilled Scrum team member is capable of checking their work as they go, ensuring inspection occurs at every step in the development process.

One of the most important examples of inspection in Scrum occurs when the team openly shares the product at the end of the Sprint. By soliciting feedback from all stakeholders, the Scrum team can ensure they remain aligned with their customer’s requirements, no matter how frequently or dramatically they may change in scope. While it may not always feel comfortable pivoting away from the hard work you’ve put in, the greatest reward is knowing that you’ve created something that is truly valuable for your stakeholders- an accomplishment that would be impossible without regular inspection.

In order to truly harness the benefits of this principle, team members must learn to operationalize inspection throughout every aspect of their workflow. Above all else, this requires a deep understanding of how exactly the inspection process works, in a variety of situations.

How Inspection Works 

In the three pillars of Scrum, the act of inspection isn’t reserved for a prestigious titleholder. All team members, from Product Owners to developers, should be making an effort to constantly inspect and reflect on their progress. And that’s not limited to their own work. Inspection is important for the continuous improvement of everything, from people to processes, for example; 

  • Past Performance. Scrum team members should consider the successes and challenges of previous Sprints in order to know where they can best improve.
  • Sprint Progress. By leveraging tools like burndown charts and Scrum boards, every member of a Scrum team can regularly inspect their collective progress against goals.
  • Market and Business Conditions. Frequent inspection of external business conditions is required in order to ensure outputs remain aligned with the needs of the market.
  • Team and Collaborative Processes. Internally, a Scrum team should constantly reflect on how they might be able to better collaborate and work to each others’ strengths.
  • Definition of Done. On occasion, Scrum teams may feel it is necessary to reevaluate their official criteria for considering a solution releasable to the customers known as the Definition of Done.

There are always better ways of working, both individually and as a team, and every stakeholder should seek out opportunities to leverage the unique synergies of their organization. By inspecting every element of their work together, a team will gain a far better sense of where it can improve, enabling every individual to continuously adapt, grow, and change.

Adapting to Scrum

While the three pillars of Scrum each possess a distinctive importance in the implementation of the framework, they are also highly interdependent. Having complete transparency is what helps identify issues during inspection, and adapting relies on knowing where to make meaningful changes that will make a positive impact. You can’t pick and choose which Scrum principles you want to incorporate into your organization. True empirical process control requires all three.

For teams unaccustomed to the Scrum paradigm, this can introduce a ton of complexity. Implementation details can (and should) vary significantly from project to project. For this reason, it’s crucial to have a guide throughout the process. 

Organizations should partner with an experienced Agile leader— someone who has been through the process before and can help the company launch a successful transition. 
Responsive Advisors is that partner. From a variety of courses in Scrum to having a consultative approach in house, Responsive Advisors is versatile in their offerings. Additionally, they provide a holistic, results-focused perspective on organizational transformation and a crew of skilled Scrum subject matter experts, helping your team effectively adapt to this innovative new way of working.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Scrum.org Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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