What is a Scrum Team?

What is a Scrum Team?

The scrum team sits at the heart of the agile approach, delivering incremental goals and objectives.

The idea behind agile is that you can achieve much more by working incrementally, breaking down large, complex projects into smaller, manageable component parts. These are product increments.

The scrum team is a group of individuals, working together within the scrum framework to create these product increments. In an effective scrum team, the members follow a common goal and stick to the same rules, while showing respect for each other.

Where Does Scrum Come From?

Scrum, as a framework, has its origins in agile software development. In a 1986 paper for Harvard Business Review, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka used the word scrum, taken from rugby, to emphasise the importance of teams.

In their paper, Takeuchi and Nonaka explained that for teams to work well together to achieve their objectives, they should be small and self-organising. Teams need the space to come up with their own tactics to work towards their shared objectives.

The inventor and co-creator of scrum, Jeff Sutherland, borrowed the scrum analogy and applied it to high-performing teams involved in product development.

Scrum has since become a framework for developing, delivering and sustaining complex products. The scrum team works within this framework.

A Note About the Product in Scrum

The definition of a product in scrum is actually quite broad. It is a tangible item, designed to create specific value. This value applies both to a group of customers, and to the organisation that creates the product. When we refer to a product in scrum, it can apply to a service or project, as well as to a physical product.

What is the Scrum Framework?

Scrum is a framework, but it is not in itself a process, nor is it a technique.

Its defining qualities are that it is lightweight and simple to understand. But, despite these qualities, mastering scrum can be a challenge, because it is not just set of processes to follow. Rather, it is a set of rules or guidelines for how people interact and create a common language and understanding.

As a framework within which you can then apply various processes and techniques, scrum is highly adaptable, and effective, providing you get it right.

The scrum framework consists of scrum teams, each with their own roles and rules, and sets of events, goals and objectives.

Scrum has its own theory, values and terminologies, which, if you’re coming to it fresh, can make it seem a bit mysterious, but, as we’ve already highlighted, simplicity is at its core. This simplicity, once you master it, is what makes a scrum team so effective.

First, let’s look at scrum theory.

What is the Basis of Scrum Theory?

The basis of scrum theory is empiricism. This is the philosophical belief that knowledge comes from experience, where you base decision-making on what you know.

In scrum theory, you work towards something incrementally. This helps to control risk and optimise predictability.

This form of process control rests on three key foundations:

  • Transparency
  • Inspection
  • Adaptation.

Transparency means that everyone should be working with a common understanding and to a common standard. For example, using language where everyone understands what a specific definition means for a given process, task or objective.

Inspection requires that scrum teams examine what they are doing frequently, to assess whether they are keeping to the process, without this inspection getting in the way of their work. Inspection applies to whatever product it is the team is producing, reviewing it regularly.

Adaptation recognises that where a process has deviated outside acceptable limits, there can be adjustments to minimise further deviation and ensure that the end product is acceptable. This applies throughout the different incremental stages of the team’s work.

These fundamental pillars shape how the scrum team approaches its work. Team members need to understand each other to bring clarity to their work; they must regularly review and inspect what they are doing; and they must adapt their processes where necessary to keep on track.

To work within scrum theory successfully, the scrum team needs to follow scrum values.

How Do Scrum Values Affect the Scrum Team?

For a scrum team to work together successfully, the individuals in it need to embody key values, which are:

  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect.

Scrum is, therefore, as much about behaviours as it is to do with working methods.

The foundation of a successful team is trust, and scrum values should enable team members to build this trust.

What Does a Scrum Team Look Like?

Because scrum teams are essentially self-organising and cross-functional, they should choose how to organise their work most effectively and efficiently.

But all scrum teams should also contain these basic components:

  • Product owner
  • Development team
  • Scrum master.

The product owner is responsible for managing the team’s product backlog. This is a prioritised list of scrum requirements that the team needs to work on to achieve its objectives within a project.

The product backlog is a list of new features, changes to existing features or other changes or activities that the team will need to look at to deliver a specific outcome.

The product backlog comes from the product’s requirements and the product roadmap that the team is following to meet them.

The product owner is the person accountable for the product backlog. The product owner is a decision-maker, and anyone wishing to change the priorities or requirements of the product backlog must go through them.

The development team works together to create and deliver the various increments of the product. Any organisation which uses a scrum framework should empower the scrum team to organise itself and manage its own work.

This team should draw on whatever skills it needs to create its product increments.

It should recognise no titles for individual members, regardless of their roles within the development team, and it should contain no sub-teams.

The development team as a whole is always accountable for its work, even if its individual members have certain specialised skills which they apply to different tasks.

The scrum master works within the scrum team to help the team adhere to scrum theory, practices, rules and values, and agile values.

They do this by helping individuals within the team understand scrum, and by explaining scrum to people outside the team with whom the team interacts.

The scrum master guides but also serves the team, and they support the product owner.

We’ll look at this role in much more detail in a separate blog. <Link to Scrum Master blog>

How Does the Scrum Team Work?

The scrum team works within the scrum framework following various scrum events.

These events are regular, and each should involve a maximum length of time. By including these events, the scrum team can maintain transparency throughout its activities.

Containing these events is the sprint, which is at the core of scrum methodology.

The sprint is what its name suggests – a controlled burst of activity, within which the team creates a product increment.

Essentially the scrum team treats each sprint as a project in its own right, even if multiple sprints will eventually contribute to an overall product outcome.

Each sprint has a goal, a design, a flexible plan for delivery and an intended outcome, which is the product increment.

Upon completion of a sprint, the product owner checks it against the sprint requirements.

The entire scrum team is involved in planning sprints, and this sprint planning should discuss the sprint goals that the product owner has identified, and how the scrum team will achieve them.

Why Are Scrum Teams Ideal for Agile Working?

Agile is about a cultural and structural shift in how you plan, manage and deliver products.

Its success depends on the individual motivation of people within teams and their willingness to be open to collaboration and to contribute fully.

Scrum gives these individuals a framework to help them make the transition to agile working.

The scrum team is the practical expression of the agile mindset.

Are You Ready for Agile?

If you want to know more about the benefits of agile working, and how to use scrum teams to experience them, then please contact Simple Progression.

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