Essential Scrum – Core Concepts (1)

Core Concepts

Scrum Framework


To better grasp the framework concept, imagine that the Scrum framework is like the foundation and walls of a building. The Scrum values, principles, and practices would be the key structural components. You can’t ignore or fundamentally change a value, principle, or practice without risking collapse. What you can do, however, is customize inside the structure of Scrum, adding fixtures and features until you have a process that works for you.

Scrum Practices


  • Product Owner – The product owner is the empowered central point of product leadership. He 1 is the single authority responsible for deciding which features and functionality to build and the order in which to build them. The product owner maintains and communicates to all other participants a clear vision of what the Scrum team is trying to achieve. As such, the product owner is responsible for the overall success of the solution being developed or maintained. To ensure that the team rapidly builds what the product owner wants, the product owner actively collaborates with the ScrumMaster and development team and must be available to answer questions soon after they are posed
  • Scrum Master – The ScrumMaster helps everyone involved understand and embrace the Scrum values, principles, and practices. She acts as a coach, providing process leadership and helping the Scrum team and the rest of the organization develop their own high-performance, organization-specific Scrum approach. At the same time, the Scrum- Master helps the organization through the challenging change management process that can occur during a Scrum adoption. She is also responsible for protecting the team from outside interference and takes a leadership role in removing impediments that inhibit team productivity (when the individuals themselves cannot reasonably resolve them)
  • Development Team –  The development team self-organizes to determine the best way to accomplish the goal set out by the product owner.

Scrum Activities and Artifacts

  1. The product owner has a vision of what he wants to create (the big cube). Because the cube can be large, through an activity called grooming it is broken down into a set of features that are collected into a prioritized list called the product backlog.
  2. A sprint starts with sprint planning, encompasses the development work during the sprint (called sprint execution), and ends with the review and retrospective. The sprint is represented by the large, looping arrow that dominates the center of the figure. The number of items in the product backlog is likely to be more than a development team can complete in a short-duration sprint.
  3. For that reason, at the beginning of each sprint, the development team must determine a subset of the product backlog items it believes it can complete (sprint planning).
  4. To acquire confidence that the development team has made a reasonable commitment, the team members create a second backlog during sprint planning, called the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog describes, through a set of detailed tasks, how the team plans to design, build, integrate, and test the selected subset of features from the product backlog during that particular sprint.
  5. Next is sprint execution, where the development team performs the tasks necessary to realize the selected features.
  6. The Scrum team completes the sprint by performing two inspect-and-adapt activities. In the first, called the sprint review, the stakeholders and Scrum team inspect the product being built.
  7. In the second, called the sprint retrospective, the Scrum team inspects the Scrum process being used to create the product

Product Backlog

Using Scrum, we always do the most valuable work first. The product owner, with input from the rest of the Scrum team and stakeholders, is ultimately responsible for determining and managing the sequence of this work and communicating it in the form of a prioritized (or ordered) list known as the product backlog.

Overall the activity of creating and refining product backlog items, estimating them, and prioritizing them is known as grooming:

Product backlog grooming

Before we finalize prioritizing, ordering, or otherwise arranging the product backlog, we need to know the size of each item in the product backlog. Size equates to cost, and product owners need to know an item’s cost to properly determine its priority. Scrum does not dictate which, if any, size measure to use with product backlog items. In practice, many teams use a relative size measure such as story points or ideal days. A relative size measure expresses the overall size of an item in such a way that the absolute value is not considered, but the relative size of an item compared to other items is considered. For example, in Figure 2.6, feature C is size 2 and feature E is size 8. What we can conclude is that feature E is about four times larger than feature C.


Sprints are timeboxed so they always have a fixed start and end date, and generally they should all be of the same duration.

Sprint Planning

During sprint planning, the product owner and development team agree on a sprint goal that defines what the upcoming sprint is supposed to achieve. Using this goal, the development team reviews the product backlog and determines the high priority items that the team can realistically accomplish in the upcoming sprint while working at a sustainable pace. The development team then provides an estimate (typically in hours) of the effort required to complete each task. Breaking product backlog items into tasks is a form of design and just-in-time planning for how to get the features done.

Most Scrum teams performing sprints of two weeks to a month in duration try to complete sprint planning in about four to eight hours. A one-week sprint should take no more than a couple of hours to plan (and probably less).

Sprint Execution

Once the Scrum team finishes sprint planning and agrees on the content of the next sprint, the development team, guided by the ScrumMaster’s coaching, performs all of the task-level work necessary to get the features done. Nobody tells the development team in what order or how to do the task-level work in the sprint backlog. Instead, team members define their own task-level work and then self-organize in any manner they feel is best for achieving the sprint goal.

Daily Scrum

Takes 15 minutes or less. Main questions:

  • What did I accomplish since the last daily scrum?
  • What do I plan to work on by the next daily scrum?
  • What are the obstacles or impediments that are preventing me from making progress?

The daily scrum is not a problem-solving activity. Rather, many teams decide to talk about problems after the daily scrum and do so with a small group of interested people. The daily scrum also is not a traditional status meeting, especially the kind historically called by project managers so that they can get an update on the project’s status. A daily scrum, however, can be useful to communicate the status of sprint backlog items among the development team members. Mainly, the daily scrum is an inspection, synchronization, and adaptive daily planning activity that helps a self- organizing team do its job better.

Although their use has fallen out of favor, Scrum has used the terms “pigs” and “chickens” to distinguish who should participate during the daily scrum versus who simply observes. The farm animals were borrowed from an old joke (which has several variants): “In a ham-and-eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.” Obviously the intent of using these terms in Scrum is to distinguish between those who are involved (the chickens) and those who are committed to meeting the sprint goal (the pigs). At the daily scrum, only the pigs should talk; the chickens, if any, should attend as observers


In Scrum, we refer to the sprint results as a potentially shippable product increment, meaning that whatever the Scrum team agreed to do is really done according to its agreed-upon definition of done. To be clear, “potentially shippable” does not mean that what got built must actually be shipped. Shipping is a business decision, which is frequently influenced by things such as “Do we have enough features or enough of a customer workflow to justify a customer deployment?” or “Can our customers absorb another change given that we just gave them a release two weeks ago?” Potentially shippable is better thought of as a state of confidence that what got built in the sprint is actually done, meaning that there isn’t materially important undone work (such as important testing or integration and so on) that needs to be completed before we can ship the results from the sprint, if shipping is our business desire.

Sprint Review

The goal of this activity is to inspect and adapt the product that is being built. Critical to this activity is the conversation that takes place among its participants, which include the Scrum team, stakeholders, sponsors, customers, and interested members of other teams. The conversation is focused on reviewing the just-completed features in the context of the overall development effort. Everyone in attendance gets clear visibility into what is occurring and has an opportunity to help guide the forthcoming development to ensure that the most business-appropriate solution is created. A successful review results in bidirectional information flow. The people who aren’t on the Scrum team get to sync up on the development effort and help guide its direction. At the same time, the Scrum team members gain a deeper appreciation for the business and marketing side of their product by getting frequent feedback on the convergence of the product toward delighted customers or users. The sprint review therefore represents a scheduled opportunity to inspect and adapt the product

Sprint Retrospective

This activity frequently occurs after the sprint review and before the next sprint planning. Whereas the sprint review is a time to inspect and adapt the product, the sprint retrospective is an opportunity to inspect and adapt the process. During the sprint retrospective the development team, ScrumMaster, and product owner come together to discuss what is and is not working with Scrum and associated technical practices. The focus is on the continuous process improvement necessary to help a good Scrum team become great. At the end of a sprint retrospective the Scrum team should have identified and committed to a practical number of process improvement actions that will be undertaken by the Scrum team in the next sprint.

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