Evolution of Scrum – A Trip Down Memory Lane

As most Agile practitioners are aware, the Scrum framework has been around since the 1950s. Expressed in various forms and concepts, Scrum was formally documented and published in 2001 as the Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. Since 2004, I have been a student of Scrum, and continue to learn new things as this simple yet powerful framework evolved over the past two decades. Given its history, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on where Scrum came from and how it has changed. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and revisit some of the highlights of the framework.

Because there is little documentation on what changes occurred the time of its inception in 2001 and 2010, we will take a look at what transpired between 2010 and 2021.

From 2010 to 2011, several interesting changes occurred with regards to Scrum.

  • Development Teams do not make a “commitment” to completing the work planned during a Sprint Planning Meeting, but rather, create a “forecast” of work which is expected to change as more becomes known throughout the Sprint. I think this to be very interesting given that most teams I work with today still think that the Sprint plan is a “commitment”; this shows the lack of general understanding of Scrum in the industry.
  • The Product Backlog is “ordered” instead of “prioritized”. Similar to #1, I think this is a minor yet important distinction that many teams don’t understand. “Prioritized” implies that the team must follow the sequence, where as “ordered” offers the team the flexibility to negotiate what makes the most sense with the Product Owner.
  • Removed the reference to “chickens and pigs”. The story of the “chicken and the pig” was notorious for creating an unexpected divide between the “worker bees” and “management”. I still refer back to this story to explain to teams that the Scrum team should operate as a single team with no differentiation of hierarchy.

From 2011 to 2013, the Scrum guide was further refined to include a few key changes described below.

  • Scrum consists of events that are time-boxed events, such that every event has a maximum duration but not a required duration. This is a rule that is often misunderstood by teams.
  • The importance of the Daily Scrum as a planning event is reinforced to clarify its intent. To this day, I still see most new Scrum teams struggle to understand the purpose of the Daily Scrum, which is a bit surprising.

From 2016 to 2017 versions of the Scrum guide, a few key changes were made.

  • The “Uses of Scrum” was added to explain that it can be used effectively for a variety of projects, not only software product development. While I feel that this is a positive change, I still see many opportunities to showcase non-software projects more widely in order to demonstrate Scrum’s success stories in these domains.
  • The format of the Daily Scrum was relaxed slightly to allow the team to develop its own approach rather than following the standard 3-question format as described previously. I see this as a great change that more teams should take advantage of in effort to continue innovating and avoid stagnation.

To wrap up this quick review of recent enhancements to Scrum, I had previously summarized the most recent changes that were made between 2017 and 2020 revisions in the following article: Scrum Guide 2020 – 5 Things You Need To Know Today!

In conclusion, the creators of Scrum have set a great example of the Agile mindset by continuously evolving the framework and enabling teams to innovate on their own terms. Teams that desire to reach their maximum potential should invest time to stay informed on the latest changes and follow industry trends; this is the best way to remain competitive and achieve superb results.

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai