In project management circles, you will hear about agile and Scrum. Agile is a philosophy – a way of thinking and being for managing projects in our knowledge economy. Today’s fast-changing technology-based economy means that a project’s scope of work is emerging – and requires flexibility – as project teams and customers work together to build that scope.

Two of agile’s four values focus on responding to change and a continuous delivery of value in the form of complete and working product increments. The other two values focus on the human interaction side of the equation. These values related to individuals and interactions, and customer collaboration underscore rather than take for granted that people working closely together is critical to producing the best work.

Agile is a mindset about how to think and be, while Scrum offers a framework, or more specific instruction for how to carry out the work. Let’s look at an overview of Scrum and specific Scrum vocabulary. Scrum describes specific Roles, Artifacts, Activities, Pillars and Values. Let’s dig down a little bit into each of these.

What’s the Difference Between Agile and Scrum?

  1. Scrum Roles
  2. Scrum Artifacts
  3. Scrum Activities
  4. Sprint Pillars and Sprint Values

Scrum Roles: Development Team, Product Owner, ScrumMaster

There are key scrum roles. The development team is a group of subject matter experts. Together, they have the collective knowledge and abilities to elicit and analyze product requirements, and then design and build the product iteratively and incrementally. Iterations are small time-boxed work cycles which in Scrum we call Sprints. Increments are complete and working parts of product. For example, a development team may produce an increment of product in each of several two-week iterations.

The development team’s focus is always on the most highly valued product increments. After they deliver these, they turn to a newly (and continuously) prioritized Backlog (which is a complete list of the product’s requirements). How they know what to build next is the role of the Product Owner.  The customer representative, product owner works collaboratively with the team to ensure the continuous delivery of value by prioritizing that backlog.

The ScrumMaster’s job is to help the team, including the product owner, to achieve agile product creation by always ensuring a common understanding of the product vision. They ensure the selected agile processes are understood and being followed, and they provide servant leadership for the team. The remove impediments to that steady forward movement toward the project’s end goals.

Scrum Artifacts: Product and Sprint Backlogs, and Product Increments

Now you can understand the Scrum artifacts in context. The Product Backlog is that list of all product requirements. The Sprint Backlog is the smaller subset of the product backlog that has been prioritized to build the Product Increment or increments during the current sprint.

Scrum Activities: Backlog Refinement, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Retrospective

You can probably guess at the meanings for these terms. Take a quick look here.

Backlog Refinement. This is also known as prioritizing or grooming the backlog. Here, the Product Owner decides what is built next, so the team always knows what to do.

Sprint Planning. The team get together and organize around the upcoming sprint.

Daily Scrum. This is a very brief meeting where team members share feedback. Specifically, the share what they each have done since the last scrum, what they will be doing next and mention any impediments they are facing. Impediments are problems to be solved but not during this brief meeting. They are for follow up by the ScrumMaster after the meeting. They are defined as a daily meeting but can take place less often, as needed.

Sprint Review. In this meeting, the team demonstrates the increment or increments built during the current sprint, to the customer. They take the customer’s feedback with them and if it is approved, the customer can take delivery of the product increment(s).

Sprint Retrospective. Yet another part of Scrum’s continuous feedback looping, this is where the team meets and discusses what went right, what went wrong, and what they would do differently, based on the current sprint. This will help in planning the next sprint and beyond through the project.

Sprint Pillars and Sprint Values

Of course, none of this would work without a set of principles the team agree to live by together. The sprint pillars are Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. With transparency Scrum teams ensure that their work, process, and progress are visible; shared with all stakeholders at any time. Inspection involves doing regular and timely checks on product and project progress, and you can see how Scrum activities and artifacts support this. It also means inspecting each increment of the product for quality before it is considered “done” to review with the customer. In turn, adaptation is about adjusting the team’s processes according to what the team learns from inspection.

Sprint values are a team promise to each other and the organization to work for the focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect that is needed to make a high functioning empowered teamwork. This in turn helps to deliver the promise of the Scrum framework.

Agile Fundamentals: Know Agile and Scrum

As a project practitioner, having a firm foundation in Agile gives you additional tools to manage your project deliverables. RMC’s Agile Fundamentals is an excellent resource for a more detailed look at Agile, Scrum and other agile frameworks. Consider our Agile Fundamentals book, available in paper back and cloud versions. We also offer an Agile Fundamentals eLearning course and Agile Fundamentals instructor led virtual course.

If you are interested in the PMI-ACP agile certification, RMC offers a suite of PMI-ACP exam preparation options to understand Agile.

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Margo Kirwin
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