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Latest Updates to the Scrum Guide (2017)

Latest Updates to the Scrum Guide

Anthony Mersino

November 9, 2017

3:46 AM

The new Scrum Guide, the definitive reference for the Scrum Framework, is out.

As of November 7, Scrum co-creators Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber published an updated version of the Scrum Guide. The last three revisions were in 2011, 2013 and 2016 so this is a relatively fast update since July 2016.

In terms of the magnitude of changes to the Scrum Guide, this is a relatively minor update. It’s more like going from an iPhone 5 to a 6, rather than from an iPhone 7 to the iPhone X.

It was a cleanup and refactoring of the language. It was already a pithy description and now it is just a bit more succinct. I’ve outlined the highlights of the changes below and then provided some additional detail.

Highlights of Changes Scrum Guide

Here are my highlights of changes:

  1. There is a new section to the Scrum Guide, Uses of Scrum. This is probably aimed at addressing criticisms that the Scrum Framework is only used in IT or SW development.
  2. There is a clarification that an Increment is required at the end of the sprint.
  3. There was a focus on clarifying the role of the Scrum Master, including the statement that the Scrum Master should be making sure that Scrum is enacted, per the Scrum Guide. So many Scrum Masters today aren’t really familiar with the Scrum Guide and so you might question whether they are true Scrum Masters.
  4. During the Daily Scrum, the 3 questions may be used or other techniques may be used, so long as the meeting is kept to 15 minutes or less.
  5. At least one improvement from the retrospective is added to the Sprint Backlog for the upcoming Sprint.
  6. The team should focus on continually improving their Definition of Done.

So you can stop reading right now unless you are a Scrum Geek and want every detail. You can also toggle over to YouTube and spend an hour watching this video from the creators:

You can also download your own copy of the new Scrum Guide.

A New Section of the Scrum Guide

The biggest change that I noticed was that there was a new section called “Uses of Scrum”. This new section describes the numerous ways that Scrum is being used today:

“develop software, hardware, embedded software, networks of interacting function, autonomous vehicles, schools, government, marketing, managing the operation of organizations and almost everything we use in our daily lives, as individuals and societies.”

This new section also talks about addressing complexity, and the importance of small teams. I imagine this was written to address the people who say, has Scrum ever been used outside of software development? Looks like the answer is yes.

And a Bunch of Scrum Guide Tweaks

Perhaps I don’t read enough into things. Everything else I saw was pretty minor. For example, there was a minor tweak on the description of the Development Team: “an Increment is required at the end of the sprint.” Something must get done. Perhaps this is to address teams that don’t get anything done in a sprint.

In the section on the Scrum Master, I like a revised statement on the job. The SM is responsible for “promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide”.

It used to say: “Ensuring that Scrum is understood and enacted.” Wow, many or perhaps most SMs today would fail this test. Most don’t understand the Scrum Guide and do whatever others tell them or what they think is best.

Very minor change in describing the Sprint Goal, perhaps just the timing. It went from “After the backlog items selected” to the more general “during sprint planning”.

Expanded the description of the Daily Scrum Meeting slightly. Rather than simply saying everyone answers the 3 questions, left some latitude on how to run this meeting. May be “conducted in different ways” as long as the focus is on the Sprint Goals.

Also talks about the Team conducting the meeting, and that the SM is responsible for making sure it happens and stays within the 15-minute timebox. Then a new statement “If others are present, the Scrum Master ensures that they do not disrupt the meeting.”

There was some gentle change in language around timeboxes for the Sprint Review and Retrospective. The change may be immaterial but they changed from “this is a 4 hour timeboxed meeting” to this is “at most a 4-hour meeting”.

Seems like splitting of hairs if you asked me because a 4-hour timebox is at most 4 hours. That’s pretty much the definition of a timebox.

This changing of terms was also applied to the Sprint Retrospective which is now “at most” a 3-hour meeting, rather than a 3-hour timebox. Interesting that the sprint planning and daily scrum still retain the timebox language.

Not sure about this subtle change:

“During each Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Team plans ways to increase product quality by improving work processes or adapting the definition of “Done””

“if appropriate and not in conflict with product or organizational standards.”

The bold and underlined part is new.

Sprint Backlog – A new sentence that I welcome – “at least one improvement action from the retrospective should be added to the sprint backlog“. Teams are often unsure about what to do with their retrospective items.

And those teams that bury their 10 new actions from the retro on a SharePoint list don’t usually improve much. The worst cases I’ve seen is where the SM reports out to management all the detailed notes from the Sprint Retrospective – including whatever people shared on working well and needs to be improved.

Product Increment had some new language, including perhaps a typo in the word “inspectable”:

“An increment is a body of inspectable, done work that supports empiricism at the end of the Sprint. The increment is a step toward a vision or goal. The increment must be in useable condition regardless of whether the Product Owner decides to actually release it.”

And A Couple of Really Minor Notes

On the first page, Ken and Jeff feature a new picture of themselves. Then a small note at the bottom where they say that Scrum is “Developed and sustained by Scrum creators: Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber “. We all knew they created it so not sure why the additional note here.

At the very end, I noticed this line that I’ve probably read before and not paid attention:

“Scrum’s roles, events, artifacts, events, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum.” 

Wonder why they put that in?  Perhaps it is for all those people who are saying they use Scrum but not. So just starting to have daily standup meetings (which BTW is not in the Scrum Guide) you weren’t using Scrum. Also, when you began calling your development phases sprints is not Scrum.

Personally, I am pretty happy that these two guys continue to update the Scrum Guide and champion the thinking behind it. And they give it away for free. You can fact-check me by getting your official summary of the changes here.


PS: If you like reading about the Scrum Guide, please check out this post about Scrum Myths.

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