Scrum Guide 2020 — what’s changed?

What changed in the latest Scrum guide — a review of the changes and the global launch event.

1: The new Scrum guide is shorter (from 17 to 13 pages) and less prescriptive

If less is more then this Scrum guide is more than the last one, being considerably shorter. The reduction in length has been achieved partly by focusing on what is essential and discarding what is not. For example, the section on cancelling a sprint was four paragraphs in the old guide and is now down to two very short sentences.

2: The new guide is completely industry agnostic

This was a huge emphasis in the launch event. It seems many if not most of Scrum inc. (the commercial arm of Scrum) recent clients are not software companies. The previous guide referenced product development in a general way but contained a few references that had their roots in the software world (e.g. references to testing and to releases) — the new guide has gone all in and can now offered as is to all kinds of teams (marketing teams were mentioned several times in the launch event) and within all kinds of companies.

3: The word “lean” makes its debut in the new guide

“Scrum is founded on empiricism and lean thinking” is the first sentence in the “Scrum Theory” section. When discussing this Jeff Sutherland the original 1986 HBR article The New New Product Development Game by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, and their connection to Japanese Lean culture. This is a big topic — for more on Lean generally take a look at my post Lean in a nutshell.

4: The structure of the guide has changed somewhat, the three artifacts now have three corresponding commitments.

The previous guide had sprint goal as a mention, but not linked specifically to an event or artifact and Definition of Done was the single entry under an ‘Artifact Transparency’ section. This rather clumsy structure has been cleaned up, with the three artifacts each having a corresponding commitment

  • Sprint Backlog has the commitment of the Sprint Goal
  • The Increment has the commitment of the Definition of Done

5: Product goal has been introduced (as a commitment of the Product Backlog)

This is arguably the most major change in terms of the 2020 guide content. The rationale for this change is that many teams were “doing Scrum”, with Scrum boards, product and sprint backlogs, and even an impressive velocity. However, on too many occasions teams were in fact working on features that did not connect with organizational goals. Velocity may have been high, but value was low. To combat this the concept of a Product Goal has been introduced; a value-driven outcome that the sprint goals roll up to. Only one goal should be worked on at a time, maximizing focus and limiting Work in Progress.

6: No more reference to the ‘development team’ — the Scrum team is one team

The “team within a team” wording of the previous guide is gone, the Scrum team — developers Product Owner and Scrum Master — is one team. This team is also called out as self-managing replacing the self-organizing wording of the previous guide.

7: No more references to roles — replaced by accountabilities

The word role does not appear at all in this new guide. Instead each of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team have accountabilities. For more on the “roles as hats” concept see my blog Team Roles — not what they used to be

8: Scrum master accountabilities introduced; the Scrum Master is now accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness

The role of the Scrum Master has had a serious upgrade and according to the 2020 guide this role is one of a true leader and is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. No longer a servant leader the Scrum Master is now a leader who serves.

9: No mention of scaling frameworks

The last point I’ll make is more about what wasn’t included in the launch event than what was included. There was no mention of how to scale Scrum, no reference to Ken Schwaber’s Nexus or Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum at Scale

That’s all folks

So folks, there you have it, Scrum is 25 years old, there is a new Scrum Guide — its leaner but not meaner — a more open and empowering framework for the Scrummers out there to head into 2021 with.

Written by

Agile coach. Ways of Working researcher. I live in beautiful New Zealand and work for Fraedom — part of Visa. I am also the founder of a start up —

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