Intro to Scrum (2 of 16): What is the Theory Behind Scrum?

What is the Theory Behind Scrum? 

Scrum is a really popular way for agile teams to deliver. But what are some of the underlying ideas that make Scrum work? What is the Theory Behind Scrum? 

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Scrum is founded on empiricism and lean thinking. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and that we should make decisions based on what is observed. And lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the essentials. 

You got two big ideas here. One, learn through experience. Two, removing waste whenever possible. Scrum employs an iterative and incremental approach to optimizing predictability and controlling risk. Think about that for a second, optimizing predictability and controlling risk. Doesn’t that sound like everything your boss wants? 

Scrum engages groups of people that collectively have all the skills necessary to get the work done, or share those skills, or learn those skills as needed. 

Scrum combines four formal events designed for inspection and adaptation within a containing event called the Sprint. These events work because they implement the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. The emergent process and work must be visible to those doing the work and those receiving the work. 

With Scrum, important decisions are based on the perceived state of its three formal artifacts. Artifacts that have low transparency can diminish value and increase risk. Think about that. If you don’t have transparency to the state of your artifacts. If you don’t really know where you’re at, you’re going to make a lot of really bad decisions. Transparency enables inspection. Inspection without transparency, is well, completely misleading and wasteful. Now that we finished transparency, let’s talk about inspection.

The Scrum artifacts and progress towards agreed upon goals must be inspected frequently and diligently. We do this to detect undesirable variances or problems. To help with inspection, Scrum provides cadence with its five events. Inspection without an adaptation is considered pointless in Scrum. Scrum events are designed to provoke change.

And finally, we’re going to talk about adaptation. If any aspect of a process deviates outside of acceptable limits, or if the resulting product is just unacceptable, the process being applied or the materials being used must be adjusted. The adjustment must be made as soon as possible to avoid further deviation. And here’s a good point to keep in mind. Adaptation becomes a lot more difficult when the people doing the work are not empowered or self-managing. A Scrum Team is expected to adapt the moment to learn something new through inspection.

Alright, that’s a lot of theory. But what does all this mean? So we’ve got transparency, inspection and adaptation. We’re going to find that these three elements are present in every event in Scrum. Scrum creates an environment where transparency, inspection and adaptation are alive and well. 

If you’re not implementing Scrum theory through transparency, inspection and adaptation while using Scrum, you’re likely not getting the benefits or controlling the risks Scrum is designed to control. Alright, well that’s it for the theory section. 

I know there’s a lot to unpack here, but these ideas are going to be really important to remember as we start to learn more about the Scrum framework through our other Scrum Basics videos.

If all of this information about Scrum is interesting to you and you’d like to learn more, please join us in one of our Applying Professional Scrum courses, Professional Scrum Master courses, or Professional Product Owner courses. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed 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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