Scrum Overview

In continuation of the Agile series, this article provides an overview of scrum (one of the Agile types). This is the scrum basics and provides the essential knowledge that would help you understand the scrum process.

In scrum, the Project Manager is known as the scrum master and the project team is known as the scrum team. There is a product owner who prioritizes the features and requirements to be developed on the product backlog. 

The scrum method uses sprints to deliver small increments of the work and get feedback from the customer. 

There are three (3) scrum pillars:

  • Transparency –  a common language and standard to ensure alignment and a common understanding.
  • Inspection – frequently review scrum progress and deliverable for feedback. It’s important not to hide how the project is progressing.
  • Adaptation – ease of incorporating feedback received and fixing problems as they arise

The scrum process flow includes:

Sprint planning > Daily Scrum Meeting > Sprint review / demo > Sprint retrospective

Product backlog

This contains the ordered list of all the work to be done in the project. It’s presented in story form usually referred to as user stories.

User stories – are different representations of how users would interact with the project deliverable (product, service, or result). Through the user stories, the team identifies the features and functionalities required for the deliverable.

Therefore, the product backlog contains the prioritized user stories (features and functionalities) of the product/service/result. The product owner is responsible for prioritizing the backlog.

Note that you don’t need to create all of the stories for the entire project before the work starts (that’s the advantage of the Agile methodology). Create the stories you know and start with that, as you know more, you add to the backlog and re-prioritize as required.

Sprint planning

Agile teams do not plan once unlike the waterfall methodology. Here, the team plans a little; what’s needed for the current sprint (a sprint is usually between 2 – 4 weeks), delivers it, learns from it, and plans again for the next sprint.

The scrum team looks through the product backlog and selects the number of user stories that they can complete within the Sprint time-box. The selected user stories become the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog is the goal of the sprint.

The definition of done is established as well. The definition of done could be referred to as the acceptance criteria for the work items in the backlog. 

Only plan for work that meets the team capacity; that is, work that the team can complete within each sprint. 

Daily Scrum Meeting

The team uses this meeting to micro commit to each other, uncover problems, and ensure the sprint work flows smoothly through the team. It is typically 15 mins. The team answers the following questions:

  • What have I completed since the last scrum meeting?
  • What’s the plan for today? am I planning to complete between now and the next scrum meeting?
  • Are my impediments (issues, problems, or risks)?

Remember that this meeting is not a status meeting and hence not used for solving problems but for realizing that there are problems (if any). If a meeting is needed to solve problems, set up one.

Sprint review

The team demonstrates all completed work items at the end of each sprint. This review meeting is used to receive feedback from project stakeholders and any change requests.

It is important to note that work items that are not 100% complete according to the definition of done defined during the planning phase are not demonstrated because they are not “done”.

Sprint retrospective

This is done after the sprint review. The purpose is to help the team learn from the sprint. This process is about continuous improvement and not about blaming the team if something didn’t go well during the sprint.

The team reflects on how to become more effective and other areas of improvement.

The scrum master ranks the importance of each improvement item and the team chooses the appropriate number of improvement items to work on for the next sprint.

Trying to improve too many things at once and not finishing any of them is much worse than planning to complete fewer items and successfully completing all of them.

Agile practice guide by pmi

After each sprint, there might be a need to refine the backlog based on the feedback received from the sprint demo and if they have more information about the project design/needs. Teams often have a goal to spend minimal time planning or refining the backlog.

In Agile, maximize time spent doing work as opposed to planning work.

Ogaga Johnson helps individuals and organizations to achieve their learning and development goals with a focus on productivity and project management.

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