April 25, 2023

What Is Scrum? 

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Key takeaways

  • Scrum is focused on a particularly fast-paced efficiency.
  • It’s best for projects that shift and change on a regular basis.
  • Scrum requires constant and regular collaboration to be successful.

Scrum is a popular project management framework emphasizing collaboration and extreme flexibility. It’s based on Agile philosophies, meaning work is completed collaboratively in short periods, known as “sprints.”

These sprints typically last two to four weeks and are defined by lots of meetings, feedback, and collaboration (more on this below).

There are other hallmark features of Scrum, such as its three distinct roles for personnel. But the strategy isn’t ideal for every industry, and many workers balk at its heavy dependence on social interactions.

Let’s discover if Scrum is suitable for you.

How does Scrum work?

Scrum works by chunking out tasks into sprints to make work more manageable and more adjustable. The idea is to clarify details and flesh out your sprint plan before each sprint so everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and how it plays into larger sprint goals. The goal is targeted efficiency rather than rapid chaos. But hold up—what is a sprint in Scrum?


A sprint is a cyclical process where workers build portions of the product in a short time, usually two to four weeks. If you find that your priorities shift and change often, two-week sprints may work best for you. If you find you can manage larger chunks at one time and follow through, go with a four-week sprint.

Daily Scrums

Scrum teams normally hold short daily meetings, called “daily Scrums,” to review progress and make changes as needed. This is one area where people who are introverted or prefer autonomous decision-making might struggle. 

You can adjust the cadence of these meetings if your team responds best to something else, and you can even do a mix of face-to-face and written check-ins to accommodate varied team members. But if morale and production respond better to quiet autonomy, you may have to slim down your check-in schedule or find a more fitting project management methodology for your tasks.

Sprint reviews

Once the sprint is over, a “sprint review meeting” showcases the completed work to the team, to customers, or any other stakeholders—and this is where your team can collect and discuss feedback on what went well and what didn’t. The team can then address this feedback in the next sprint and construct other portions of the product. 

This cycle repeats for the entire length of the project, or if your work is continual, then it repeats indefinitely.

What are the roles in Scrum?

Scrum keeps it simple when it comes to roles. There are only three fleshed-out components with one bonus role:

  • Product Owner: This role monitors the project backlog, a list of mandatory features and requirements needed in the final product and framed as tasks. The product owner is the customer’s advocate, whether the customer is internal or external, and ensures the development team implements the end user’s needs and wants.
  • Scrum Master: As the name implies, this person enforces the Scrum process and liaisons between stakeholders, the product owner, and the development team. They ensure people communicate, reevaluate goals, and stay true to Scrum’s themes of constant evolution. Most likely, this is a project manager or team manager.
  • Development Team: This is essentially the workhorses that do the labor to build the product. This team generally consists of individual contributors, like software developers or graphic artists. The team should have diverse skill sets to rapidly tackle new challenges and needs.
  • Stakeholders: Although not a formal role, outside stakeholders wield a great deal of power. That’s because Scrum provides a voice to these individuals as they provide feedback after every sprint. With that feedback, the product owner adjusts the product backlog, and the development team acts accordingly.

Overall, each role depends heavily on one another. This interconnectivity usually plays out in plenty of meetings and collaboration on tasks. As a result, it’s prudent to ensure everyone gets along well with one other to ensure optimal social interaction. Interpersonal conflicts, conflicting work schedules, and underperformance can easily derail a Scrum-based approach.

Given this narrow margin of error, many people pursue formal training and certification in each Scrum role. Both Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance administer certificates and education, although there are other learning providers.

What is Scrum best for?

Scrum’s best for dynamic, constantly evolving environments. That’s because the framework focuses on adjusting a project’s course on the fly, rather than adhering to a rigid, predetermined path.

As a result, you’ll need a generous amount of freedom to explore unconventional solutions. Indeed, some industries, such as software development, are better built for this kind of out-of-the-box thinking.

And since Scrum operates on a fast-paced work and feedback cycle with sprints, you’ll need a team that embraces speed and regular collaboration.

When should Scrum not be used?

Sure, project managers talk a big game about Scrum. But despite its fame, the framework isn’t suitable in all cases.

Here are some situations where Scrum should not be used:

  • Rigid or highly predictable projects: Scrum requires lots of flexibility since it involves constantly changing course throughout a project’s timeline. So, if you deal in tried-and-true project maps that aren’t open to evolution, then Scrum is not for you.
  • Simple or small-scale projects: Scrum’s too complex for something that might only involve a few people and a straightforward process. As a result, it’s better to ditch the framework and cut to the chase with a simpler project plan.
  • Limited skill sets: Scrum focuses on quickly thwarting challenges and carrying on. As a result, having a team full of diverse skills is necessary. Otherwise, you’ll waste time and money trying to hire people in the middle of a project.
  • Limited social and collaborative appetite: Scrum is an extrovert’s paradise since it requires heavy interpersonal contact. As a result, if your team members prefer autonomy and solitude, Scrum won’t work.

Additionally, Scrum doesn’t work in some industries. For example, businesses involved in highly regulated environments, such as health care, are unsuitable for this project management framework. These sectors don’t allow for the high degree of flexibility and unconventional solutions Scrum demands.

Deciding if Scrum is right for you

Scrum is a project management framework based on Agile philosophies. It revolves around two- to four-week work iterations known as “sprints.” Stakeholders provide feedback after sprints. Then, the Development Team changes its tasks to address feedback in subsequent cycles.

If you work in a highly creative industry without rigid regulations, then Scrum is ideal. And although not required, a team of extroverted people interested in constant meetings and feedback cycles would also perform well within the framework.

Many project management tools can accommodate the Scrum framework and ease some of the more labor-intensive steps. So if you don’t yet have a fitting software or are considering a new solution, take a look at our list of favorite PM software.

Scrum FAQ

What’s the difference between Scrum and Agile?

Agile is a broader project management methodology that focuses on breaking down projects into smaller chunks, known as iterations. Agile refers to this generic approach, with few specific details.

Also Watch: Agile Project Management, Explained

Scrum, on the other hand, is a specific system that puts Agile’s concepts to work in a clearly defined manner. While Agile provides the general theory, Scrum pencils in the details of who should do what and when.

Some other Agile-based project management frameworks include kanban, Lean, and Crystal.

What is a product backlog in Scrum?

The product backlog is the list of mandatory features and details needed in the finished product. The product owner works with stakeholders to document these needs. Meanwhile, the scrum master ensures the development team implements these items.

What are the five values of Scrum?

The five values of Scrum are focus, commitment, respect, openness, and courage. Additionally, trust is a crucial component of the entire process. All of these values speak to the highly collaborative and social nature of Scrum.

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