Simon Roberts, Certified Scrum Trainer and Founder of ScrumCenter Limited
Scrum “by the book” is very simple, and it’s a great place to start, but teams that want to get outstanding results understand the journey has only just begun. The three pillars model can help your team on this journey by allowing you to maximise the effectiveness of each part of Scrum.
The three pillars of Scrum are transparency, inspection and adaptation. They can be used to “inspect and adapt” your Scrum implementation and set you and your team on the path to really excellent Scrum.
So, what are the three pillars of Scrum? The three pillars of Scrum are transparency (about the real state of affairs), inspection (e.g. looking at the current state of the product), and adaptation (e.g. adapting to improve the product). A key part of effective Scrum is using these principles to debug and optimise your Scrum implementation.
Read on to learn more about the three pillars of Scrum and how these relate to Scrum events such as the Sprint Review.
What are the Three Pillars of Scrum?
Scrum is based on three principles:
- Transparency – about the real state of affairs, for example, a product
- Inspection – where we look at the current state of the product
- Adaptation – where we adapt to make the product better
One of the keys to effective Scrum is to use these three principles to debug and optimise your Scrum implementation. You can do this for all of the events in Scrum, namely:
- Sprint Planning
- Daily Scrum
- Sprint Review
- Sprint Retrospective
The three pillars can even be used to optimise the Scrum activity, Product Backlog Refinement.
Empiricism and the Sprint Review
Let’s look at an example of the three pillars of Scrum by zooming in on the Sprint Review meeting.
First, we need to be clear about the goal of the Sprint Review meeting. It is commonly misunderstood as the event at which the team’s results are accepted or rejected by the Product Owner, but this is a common misconception. It is tragically late at this stage to discover that there has been a misunderstanding between the Developers and Product Owners. Great Scrum teams carry out acceptance of sprint results continuously during a Sprint rather than waiting until just before the end or at the end of the Sprint.
Instead, the Sprint Review should be regarded as an opportunity to identify how to make the product better. Let’s look at how the three pillars of Scrum can help us to do this:
Transparency at the Sprint Review
We need to be absolutely clear about the current state of the opportunity. In the Sprint Review, we typically do this by:
- Stating which product backlog items (PBIs) were pulled into the sprint by the developers during sprint planning (as a reminder for everyone) and which ones are now done according to the Scrum team’s definition of done.
- Demonstrating only the “done” PBIs.
It’s very tempting to demonstrate also PBIs that are working but not completely done, but this can easily lead to those present getting a false impression of progress (reduced transparency) – getting the last few per cent done on an item with defects, missing documentation or some other deficit can easily need a lot of effort. It’s a slippery slope, so great Scrum always only demonstrates truly done PBIs.
Inspection at the Sprint Review
As mentioned already, the developers should demonstrate just the completed or “done” product backlog items. But to whom do they demonstrate? Not to the Product Owner because they have already accepted the PBIs. Instead, the primary audience for the demonstration is people outside the Scrum team, i.e. stakeholders, by which we mean anyone with an interest in the product. This might mean:
- Subject matter experts (e.g. legal)
- Members of other teams
Without stakeholders being present at the sprint review meeting, there cannot be any meaningful inspection, and the full value of the meeting, by discovering improvements to the product, cannot be realised.
So make sure that the key stakeholders are present. Product Owners play a special role here by ensuring that stakeholders are engaged. It is especially useful to keep stakeholders up to date on the contents of the current sprint, for example, by ensuring they understand what is being worked on (via the Sprint Goal). That way, stakeholders are more likely to attend, particularly if they know that the Sprint Goal is relevant to a topic in which they have important input or expertise.
What can we expect from stakeholders? Ideas on how to make the product more successful, better and more valuable to them.
Adaptation at the Sprint Review
Let’s assume that we have effective transparency and inspection at the Sprint Review. We get valuable feedback from stakeholders and many ideas for improving the product. We then need to do something with this feedback by incorporating appropriate ideas into the Product Backlog.
Some organisations fix the scope up front and try to freeze the Product Backlog before teams start sprinting. If your organisation believes that is the route to success, then:
- They are mistaken! Today’s reality is that success comes from responding to new information.
- Scrum may not be the best option for them, and other approaches should be considered.
Effective Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation – the Key to Great Scrum
In this short article, I’ve shown how you can focus on the three pillars of Scrum; transparency, inspection and adaptation to debug and optimise the Scrum Sprint Review. You can take a similar approach with other parts of Scrum, particularly the events Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum and Sprint Retrospective. By evaluating each of these events through the lens of these three pillars of empirical process control, you can boost the effectiveness of your Scrum implementation and, ultimately, the success of your products.
At ScrumCenter, we offer Agile and Scrum Training, Coaching and Consulting to help support your business’ Agile transformation. Take a look at our courses online today, or contact our team for more information.