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Q&A with University Scrum Students: The Changing Face of Scrum

Part two in a series of blog posts derived from a one-hour Q&A session I had with University of Alabama students who were using my Essential Scrum book as the core of their course curriculum. You can read the first blog in this serires ("Becoming Agile") here.

Has Scrum changed much since your Essential Scrum book was published? 

The biggest change over the past four years has been the formalization of scaling approaches and all of the commercially available scaling frameworks.

At its core, however, Scrum remains the same. I recently had a conversation with my publisher about a potential second edition of Essential Scrum. The conclusion, there are definitely some minor wording changes I would make (e.g., how I worded certain concepts and the emphasis I placed or should have placed on particular topics). There is also some art I would update. But in the end, there are no material changes to Scrum that would motivate me to create a second edition. The current addition remains as valid today as when the book was published.

That’s not to say Scrum has been static, however. For example, the authors of the Scrum Guide have published some minor vocabulary tweaks just before the book got published and since its 2012 publication. I adopted some and ignored others because I thought the new terms were either poor choices or frivolous hair splitting. Examples include Prioritized vs. Ordered, Commitment vs. Forecast, and Grooming vs. Refinement.

Here is how I explain Prioritizing vs. Ordering in Chapter 2 of Essential Scrum

“…there was another debate as to whether the appropriate term for describing the sequence of items in the product backlog should be prioritized (the original term) or ordered, the term used in “The Scrum Guide.” The argument was that prioritizing is simply one form of ordering (and, according to some, not even the most appropriate form of ordering). The issue of how to best sequence items in the product backlog, however, is influenced by many factors, and a single word may never capture the full breadth and depth of the concept. Although there may be theoretical merit to the ordered-versus prioritized debate, most people (including me) use the terms interchangeably when discussing the items in the product backlog”“…there was another debate as to whether the appropriate term for describing the sequence of items in the product backlog should be prioritized (the original term) or ordered, the term used in “The Scrum Guide.” The argument was that prioritizing is simply one form of ordering (and, according to some, not even the most appropriate form of ordering). The issue of how to best sequence items in the product backlog, however, is influenced by many factors, and a single word may never capture the full breadth and depth of the concept. Although there may be theoretical merit to the ordered-versus prioritized debate, most people (including me) use the terms interchangeably when discussing the items in the product backlog.”

Four years from now will organizations be more agile?

Yes, organizations will be more agile in four years. People in senior management today will start to retire and people who grew up in the agile generation will begin to replace them. For this next generation of practitioners Agile will just be the norm, not the new way of doing things! As such, they will have a fundamental grasp of core agile principles and how to apply them.

To best prepare yourself for a more agile future, read and re-read Chapter 3 (Core Agile Principles) until you understand not only the how but also the why behind agile and Scrum. Also, you can review the slides in my presentation "Agile Principles: The Foundation Underlying Successful Agile Development."

Over the next 20 years, do you expect Scrum to change?

I expect the core principles that underlie Scrum will remain the same. How organizations realize these principles, however, could be different. Scrum has already evolved since its original inception in the early 1990s. I expect it will continue to evolve as we learn more about how to best apply it. That being said, I believe if we could travel forward 20 years and observe someone “doing Scrum,” it would look substantially similar to how it looks today.

Next in the Q&A with University Scrum Students’ Series

In the next blog in this series, I’ll describe how Scrum works in tough environments.