On November 11th, 2020, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland published the latest update of the Scrum Guide. With a first-ever publication in 2010, this milestone document described an innovative work environment in less than 20 pages. Within the framework of a development project, the Scrum Guide 2020 gave smooth and extremely clear rules made for reaching the highest potential of the team.
Ten years later, what is really new about the Scrum method? Is the 2020 update following the same framework or does it move completely away from it? In other words, is the Scrum Guide 2020 still… agile? Let’s take a deep look into it with the team here at Wemanity.
1. Why a New Scrum Guide in 2020?
Scrum Guide: updates on a regular basis
Since 2010, four new versions of the Scrum Guide have been completing and adjusting precepts of the original document. Those new releases from 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2017 brought essentially minor modifications by adjusting everyone’s role within the Scrum Team, or by replacing a word with another.
Adapting to recent evolutions in project management
The Scrum Guide 2020’s publication came with much more anticipation as it was a much more different context. Everyone was now living in an unprecedented health crisis, which strongly modified our way of working together. Telework spread and remote teams became a daily reality for many companies. Management had to be re-organised accordingly.
Meanwhile, market requirements had been evolving as well:
- Delivery time for a product has decreased in significant ways;
- Exigency from the final consumers is higher than ever;
- Companies’ reactivity must always be quicker.
Finally, this new framework coincided with the Scrum Guide’s tenth anniversary and the Scrum method’s twenty-fifth anniversary: such a symbolic turning point naturally called for a retrospective review and strong decisions if needed. Regarding to this, the Scrum Guide 2020 doesn’t disappoint as it modifies substantially its general dynamics.
2. Scrum Guide 2020: What’s New?
Below are every major modification made by the Scrum Guide 2020. For an overall introduction to the method, please read our post dedicated to the Scrum method.
Scrum Guide 2020: a lighter format
The method’s new versions decreases its amount of pages from 20 to 15 pages, showing a clear will to simplify its principles and systematically get to the point. This effort in being succinct may also be the sign for the method to open to a broader array of sectors outside IT and tech industry.
An enhanced role for the Scrum Master
The Scrum Master takes a leading role within the method’s new organization. It even appears as soon as the first page, where he’s described as a real conductor in the management area. For recall, the Scrum Master’s goal is to conduct the team as a whole while respecting the rules and framework of the Scrum method.
The major change lies in the allocation of his missions and responsibilities. The Scrum Master is now accountable for his team’s efficiency as a whole and for a good execution of tasks. He’s no longer considered as a facilitator or coach, his role now consist simultaneously in:
- Leading the team, in order to be a source of motivation;
- Staying alongside the team, in order for it to continuously improve;
- Observing the team’s evolution.
This is likely due to answering to the new market requirements and the will to legitimize the Scrum Master, granting him a broader role within the team.
Product goal: a new strategic horizon
The Scrum Guide 2020 introduces a new concept in product goal, in addition to the well-known sprint goal. In the traditional Scrum Method, the sprint goal is the goal the team has to reach after a sprint, and before deciding on the next goal. On its side, the product goal reflects a more long-term horizon and can describe the desired state of the finished product. It is also possible to implement several successive product goals, e.g. after every new functionality’s implementation. This notion of product goal represents engagement on the scale of the product backlog. This allows the Product Owner to draw a common thread while building his backlog.
Scrum Guide: three levels of engagement
In its latest update, the Scrum Guide now defines three distinct levels of engagement:
- The Product Goal sets the desired state of the product for a defined deadline.
- The Definition of Done sees that the quality standards are respected.
- The Sprint Goal has the same function as the product goal, but on the scale of a sprint. It’s possible to set several of those short-term goals within a sprint planning.
No more reference to agility
The Scrum Guide lies no longer within the concept of agility, or at least it doesn’t refer to anymore. With a single reference in its previous update, the word agile no longer appears in the 2020 version.
Instead, the document refers directly – and from the start – to the Lean movement. For a better setting within this school of thought, the Scrum Guide 2020 even deleted a substantial amount of prescriptions, considered as too restrictive. For example, the famous three question to ask after every Daily Scrum Meeting have now disappeared:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- Did I face obstacles?
This simplification will be well received by many teams, as it grants them more freedom to lead the meeting the way they find the most suitable.
The remarkable disappearance of the Dev Team
The last major innovation from the Scrum Guide 2020 is the disappearance of the notion of development team. The term is now replaced by a more generic word: developers.
This goes beyond a simple semantic evolution. Developers are now an integral part of the Scrum Team and their previous specific micro-organisation no longer exists. Self-organisation, autonomy, and multidisciplinarity were key words in the way the Dev Team was working, but those are now transposed to the entire Scrum Team, which manages itself.
This decision suppresses the subset of development tasks and unifies the Scrum Team. In that way, it can now exist in a consistent way within the Lean school of thought, but it can also create a new debate. We can indeed wonder wether the developers won’t lose themselves in their autonomy after this important evolution.
3. What Does the Scrum Guide 2020 Imply?
Wether those new elements of the Scrum method are relevant or not will be at everyone’s discretion. However, those modifications, although minimal, appear as consistent measures in regard to the dynamics of the current market: Being more flexible and getting to the point.
Despite this, can we still affirm that the Scrum method is agile?
Agility is still at the roots of the philosophy
Even if the term itself isn’t mentioned anymore, the Scrum Guide still relies heavily on the values of agility. The new affiliation to the Lean movement doesn’t contradict the agile roots of the Scrum Guide, and even tends to reinforce them by focusing on its core values.
This ever-existing link with the agile values becomes obvious when compared to the historic principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development:
- ‘’Individuals and interactions over processes and tools’’: Suppressing the notion of development team avoids any impression of belonging to a small entity within rather than to the team itself. The Scrum Team now acts like one.
- ‘’Working softwares over comprehensive documentation’’: The new concept of product goal brings one or several long-term goals to the team, while still keeping an eye on the overall process to produce something working.
- ‘’Customer collaboration over contract negotiation’’: The Scrum Master becomes a true leader working for the Scrum Team and the entire organisation. He now goes beyond the role of a servant leader, which only consisted in providing a framework, animation, and motivation for the team. This broader role makes him the favorite contact for people outside the team, including customers.
- ‘’Responding to change over following a plan’’: Suppressing prescriptions and other normative arrangements from the Scrum Guide 2020 allows the teams to fully assume the method for themselves and adapt more quickly.
Accountability for a better value of every team member
The notion of accountability, as opposed to the description of ‘’roles’’, appears as one of the key concepts of the new Scrum method.
Although the roles of everyone remain clearly defined, accountability introduces the idea of being accountable for the project’s progression. For example, developers are expected to communicate on the progress regarding their sprint backlog and to focus on quality of their work.
The Product Owner’s role consists rather in managing the product backlog, and – most important – to make it transparent and understandable for every member of the team.
Finally, the Scrum Master also gets effects from this evolution. He leaves his role as a facilitator to become fully accountable for the performance of his team, as mentioned above. This mutation actually brings him closer to the traditional role of project manager and this could skew his role if it isn’t clearly defined at the start of the project.
Towards more multidisciplinarity
Although timid, the evolution in the Scrum method opens the door to more domains, as the method already finds applications outside IT, in domains such as human resources and cybersecurity.
Some elements of this 2020 update tend to encourage this evolution and put on paper some of its aspects:
- We no longer talk of development team, but rather of developers, and those are no longer only associated to professionals creating softwares;
- The new notion of product goal is large and versatile enough to be adapted to any type of product, and not only a software or an app.
This new version of the Scrum Guide brings major changes to the methodology. Not only it takes into consideration the market trends, it also shakes up the Scrum Master’s role.
Now that he’s the one responsible for the good implementation of the Scrum framework, another question comes to mind: How can he achieve such a task with a role that close to a project manager?
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Three key points to remember:
- The Scrum Guide 2020 decreases its amount of pages to get more to the point;
- It associates a well-defined accountability to every role within the team;
- It takes a more multidisciplinary approach than previous updates.