4 things you may think is part of Scrum but isn’t

Agile mindset

AUTHOR: Malene Marie Bendixen Jacobsen, Agile Coach

When I work with teams I often hear assumptions of what is part of Scrum and what is not. Below are a few of the most common misconceptions:

Stand-Up

In Scrum, there is not a meeting called Stand-Up. The Stand-Up meeting comes from Extreme Programming which is another Agile methodology.

Even though the stand-up is similar to the daily Scrum session, Scrum does not describe that you have to stand up at the event. The rules of the daily Scrum are as follows:

  • 15-minute time-boxed.
  • Held every day in a sprint, at the same time and place to ensure consistency and reduce complexity
  • The event is used for the development team to inspect the progress towards the sprint goal and progress towards completing the sprint backlog
  • The meeting is dedicated only to development team members

The idea with the daily Scrum session is to:

  • Improve communication between the team.
  • Eliminate other meetings where most people waste their time and are not productive.
  • Identify impediments, even though this should not be the only time impediments are communicated.
  • Highlight and promote quick decision-making
  • Improve the development team’s level of knowledge, establish what is going on, get everyone on track, establish future focus areas, and so on.

You can still call your meeting a stand-up if that is what your team prefers, but if you are doing Scrum, remember the rules of the Daily Scrum.

Relative Estimation

Scrum does not say that you have to use relative estimation, Scrum only describes that product backlog item attributes are: description, order, estimate, and value.

So it is up to you and your team to determine which model you want to use for estimation: hour, t-shirt size, poker planning, etc.

Sprint 0

There is nothing called Sprint 0 in Scrum. Scrum does not differentiate between sprints. As described by the Scrum guide these are the rules for a sprint:

  • Time-boxed of one month or less.
  • During a sprint a “done”, useable, and potentially releasable product increment is created.
  • Sprints have consistent durations throughout.
  • Newsprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous sprint.
  • Sprints consist of sprint planning, daily Scrum sessions, development work, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospective.
  • Each sprint has a goal of what is to be built including design and flexible plan.
  • During the sprint no changes are made that would endanger the sprint goal, a quality goal does not decrease and the scope may be clarified and re-negotiated between the Product Owner and the development team.

We see teams participating in Sprint 0 to plan, create teams, establish a product backlog, set up the infrastructure, and so on. If your so-called “sprint” does not live up to the above rules of a sprint, it is not a sprint, so it should not be referred to as one.

The Scrum Guide does not describe a start-up phase as mentioned above and what it should be called, but I would suggest calling it something like a “kick-off” or a “discovery phase” in order to avoid confusion around the meaning of a sprint.

User stories

User stories are a great tool to define user requirements, but again Scrum does not describe that you have to make use of user stories. The Scrum Guide describes the product backlog as an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product – it is the single source of requirement.

The product backlog consists of product backlog items – these items have the attributes of a description, order, estimate, and value.

So how you create the description of your product backlog items is entirely up to you and your team according to what works best to achieve the desired outcome.

As alternatives to user stories, you can look into these different models to name a few: improvement stories, plain texts, job stories, story-telling, or use cases.

Good luck on your Agile journey!

References:

http://www.scrumguides.org/index.html