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"Scrum Open" Assessment vs Scrum Guide 2020

Last post 03:20 pm August 17, 2022 by Piotr Górajek
9 replies
07:16 pm February 10, 2021

Hi,

Inspired by @Kevin Moore post with contradiction in one of the open questions, I would like to highlight another one to re-evaluate.

In Scrum Open thare is a "True / False" Question about this sentence:

The purpose of a Sprint is to produce a valuable and useful Increment of working product

In summary it is marked as a true statement with explanation:

Feedback

The heart of Scrum is a Sprint, a timebox of one month or less during which a done, useful, and valuable working product Increment is created.

I think, that it is not coherent with current 2020 version of the Scrum Guide, as side by side comparison highlights that this sentence changed to:

Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value.

In 2017 version it was phrased close to provided feedback:

The heart of Scrum is a Sprint, a time-box of one month or less during which a "Done", useable, and potentially releasable product Increment is created.

IMHO this question needs changes as the description of the purpose of Sprint breaks the direct link with the Increment, it could be either of below scenarios:

  • If answer remains true, then feedback should be changed in a way that highlights how it is still purpose of the Sprint, as it is not such straight forwardly phrased as in 2017 version.
  • If we say that purpose of the Sprint is no longer linked with creation of the Increment, based on comparison of sentences 2017 vs 2020, then answer should be false, and feedback should be changed to reflects that.

 


10:55 am August 11, 2022

I would like to bump this post up, as I still think that this question needs an update as the feedback refers to SG2017 and compared side by side is not correct by that. I can see how it can be explained in a way to defend such purpose, however IMHO that would be overlaping with strategy employed in Scrum:

Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and to control risk.

I would rather advocate that the best answer for this question is false, as purpose IMHO quite nicely gravitate now around focus on value and progress towards Product Goal. Of course, our strategy is Incremental, so at least one increment should be created.

Nevertheless, it would be great is Scrum.org team reflect on that question through 2020 version of SG 🙂

screenshot

 


11:00 pm August 12, 2022

I don't see any contradiction or issue here. 

You seem to be implying there is a problem because the wording does not exactly align? 

But the exam has never been to simply memorize and repeat specific lines from the scrum guide. It's about understanding the purpose of the elements of Scrum. 

You seem to be taking issue specifically with the line: 

The purpose of a Sprint is to produce a valuable and useful Increment of working product

but is there anything in the 2020 guide that leads you to believe this is NOT true? 

I would point out that the 2020 guide does still contain a definition of Scrum which includes:

The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.

 

Correct me if I'm misunderstanding you, but if your contention is simply that the question is not exactly the same language, then I think you're missing the purpose of the exam. 

If you still believe this is an issue, I'd ask you to point to an element of the scrum guide that you believe would demonstrate that the question should be answered 'false'. 

 


04:02 pm August 13, 2022

@Michael IMHO we can look at it from two perspectives:

  1. The answer is true, because we can distill from other parts of SG that we work in Sprints, and we create useful Increments etc. so all of it could be elevated to concept of purpose as proposed.
  2. The answer is false, as closest statement to purpose of Sprint in the 2020 SG does not speak about producing Increment at all, but about turning ideas into value.

Problem with that question is mainly the explanation provided, I to some degree agree that we may say that purpose of Sprint is to produce useful Increment. As well as to some degree purpose of Sprint is to create sustainable pace or regular Inspect and Adapt loops. However, if we think what the word “purpose” means, we could argue that despite all of this being true, the ultimate purpose of Sprint is to turn ideas into value. It is the same as saying that purpose of university is to produce diplomas - which of course is not true, as ultimate purpose there is to teach people.

Because I remember this question from my first encounter with Scrum and Scrum Guide 2017, and I can refer to experience of doing Open Assessments, I feel comfortable to point out that it might be not aligned with the SG 2020 at least in part of explanation. And as you mentioned purpose of the exam, I can ask is purpose of Open Assessment with explanations same as this or different?

For me, purpose of those is to help understand aspirants what Scrum is and how to read intentions in Scrum Guide correctly. It is debatable that often those explanations are just almost direct quotes from the guide, without any extra comment. Nevertheless when a new person will start to learn and for example compare versions of SG in that process, he or she will find that description of Sprint changed in major way. It broke direct references to the Increment. The minor change is from word heart to heartbeat, but it is not all. And also that person can have doubts what is true answer, as provided explanation is almost exact quote from previous version of SG.

That is the reason why I try to bring attention to this question. And also as English is not my native language, I try to pay extra attention to every word and placement in text - often with checking dictionary explanations of words, to not relay too heavily on my pure intuition.

Hope this helps you understand what I try to say here 😉


07:22 pm August 13, 2022

Sprint is the sum of its parts and not just the heartbeat sentence being referenced.  

There is more to a Sprint than just turning ideas into value. Sprints and Sprint Goals are incremental steps towards a Product Goal. Any ideas turning into value are in service to the goals. 

All the work necessary to achieve the Product Goal, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective, happen within Sprints.

Each of the Events occurs within a Sprint and we have associated artifacts including Increment. 

Focusing on a single sentence is like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t focus on the finger or you miss out on the glory of the moon. 


06:49 am August 14, 2022

So in your words Ryan what is the purpose of the Sprint? I would argue that listing everything is not ideal way of speaking about purpose.

IMHO there is a reason why the Sprint description have changed in major way. While we strive to create at least one useful Increment, do the events, and work with other artifacts during the Sprint - Why do we do all of this? Personally I like the new description more, as it is biased towards explaining the why, not the what. And while the Sprint encapsulates everything, it always was ultimately about creating some value in the end - that is the purpose, the very root cause why something exists.

All of those other things are important of course, and we could say that:

Purpose of the Sprint is to turn ideas into value, and this are what’s and how’s that serves to achieving that purpose. In other words the Increment serves the purpose of the Sprint, not the other way around, so maybe it shouldn’t be oversimplified to say that the purpose of the Sprint is to create one, as this will change the direction of thinking? 🤔


10:46 am August 14, 2022

Sprint purpose isn’t stated explicitly in the Guide as it is for some of the other Events. It is certainly clearer for Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Retrospective which each start with “The purpose of”.

I believe you may be inferring that the Sprint purpose statement is the first line of that section. Perhaps that was the intention of the authors, but for me “ideas are turned into value” is vague as a purpose statement. Which ideas? Any ideas? Even if they don’t serve the goals of the team?

Tying into Empiricism, each Event’s purpose ultimately aligns to adaptation of something. In my own words the purpose of the Sprint is to adapt the Product as an incremental step towards the Product Goal. The question and the feedback both seem to support this. Increment is the artifact we use to describe that adaptation of the Product, so for me it seems appropriate.

Interestingly, the Scrum Glossary only focuses on the container aspect when defining Sprint…

Sprint: Scrum Event that is time-boxed to one month or less, that serves as a container for the other Scrum events and activities. Sprints are done consecutively, without intermediate gaps.


10:50 am August 16, 2022

@Ryan nice catch with glossary. I like your way of thinking and in that context one could ask - If purpose of sprint is to create an Increment, then when we create one in first day of the Sprint, can we do other unrelated things as purpose of the Sprint has been satisfied? 🤔

I would propose to go through entire section of Sprint description and try to forget as much as possible about our personal believes, but just try to pick from that part what kind of purpose is implied there. I will bold parts that brings my attention in that context.

"(1) Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value.

(2) They are fixed length events of one month or less to create consistency. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint.

All the work necessary to achieve the Product Goal, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective, happen within Sprints.

During the Sprint:

  • No changes are made that would endanger the Sprint Goal;

  • Quality does not decrease;

  • The Product Backlog is refined as needed; and,

  • Scope may be clarified and renegotiated with the Product Owner as more is learned.

(3) Sprints enable predictability by ensuring inspection and adaptation of progress toward a Product Goal at least every calendar month. When a Sprint’s horizon is too long the (4) Sprint Goal may become invalid, complexity may rise, and risk may increase. (4.5) Shorter Sprints can be employed to generate more learning cycles and limit risk of cost and effort to a smaller time frame. Each Sprint may be considered a short project.

Various practices exist to forecast progress, like burn-downs, burn-ups, or cumulative flows. While proven useful, these do not replace the importance of empiricism. In complex environments, what will happen is unknown. Only what has already happened may be used for forward-looking decision making.

(5) A Sprint could be cancelled if the Sprint Goal becomes obsolete. Only the Product Owner has the authority to cancel the Sprint."

I would say, that we can distill below purpose candidates:

  • (1) Purpose of the Sprint is to turn ideas into value.
  • (2) Purpose of the Sprint is to create consistency.
  • (3) Purpose of the Sprint is to ensure Inspection and Adaptation of progress toward a Product Goal.
  • (4)/(4.5) Purpose of the Sprint is to limit our exposure to risk.
  • (5) Purpose of the Sprint is to focus on/achieve the Sprint Goal.

We could try to combine and paraphraze the above into:

  • Purpose of the Sprint is to turn ideas into value in consistent, risk-limited manner that ensures Inspection and Adaptation of progress toward a Product Goal.

Nevertheless, I would argue that lack of Increment in the whole description of the Sprint is a major change that was done on purpose, and we shouldn't just blindly ignore that fact?

However, I really like your way of describing why it is still true, by going back to Empiricism in the explanation, and maybe it would be even better to say it that way?

  •  The purpose of the Sprint is to turn ideas into valuable adaptation of the Product toward the Product Goal.

Anyway, I still think that this question needs to be revisited and validated if the answer is truly correct and if the explanation helps to understand why. As now it is simply left in exactly same state as it was during SG2017, where that feedback was almost direct quote of that version of the guide 🙂


12:57 pm August 17, 2022

I really think you might be over thinking this

The Scrum open is the simplest test available for Scrum knowledge. It's not trying to trick you, you don't need to read so much between the lines. 

To your original point, the question of:

 

The purpose of a Sprint is to produce a valuable and useful Increment of working product

 

Forget all the pedantic ways one might pick apart the scrum guide to get at the deepest meanings of purpose and value, and think about a person at the very beginning stage of their learning of scrum. 

Do you think that this person should believe it is True, or False, that the purpose of a sprint is to produce a valuable, useful increment? 

What do you believe would be learned by telling them the answer to this question is 'false'? 

in my experience, people fail these questions much more often because they overthink the answer than because they've misunderstood scrum. 

This whole discussion seems to me like a lesson in overthinking.


03:20 pm August 17, 2022

@Michael I get your point, and I agree that I sometimes overthink things. However, as much as overthinking may not be helpful, relying on oversimplification also can blind you from proper understanding. Maintaining a balance with little skepticism and curiosity IMHO is a healthy approach.

"(...) think about a person at the very beginning stage of their learning of scrum."

That is the exact reason for this thread, I could simply pass on my opinion without sharing it, as I already passed most of Scrum.org certifications, or I can just memorize that the answer key here is to say it is true - but I am not here to just collect badges.

I believe as I wrote in previous comments, that person at the very beginning stage will/can have doubts about which answer is correct and why. The entire section of the Scrum Guide (the basis for early learners) is silent about the Increment. That connection was there in the previous edition at face value, but now this direct connection is missing (first doubt about if this still is true). The entire feedback provided is an almost direct quote from the previous guide (second doubt about if that question was even updated).

What is the purpose of open assessments? To help people check if they are ready to pass exams or to help them assess how their learning sinks in? I would say that because you actually get "feedback", it is the latter, as a simple check if you are ready to go would be satisfied by getting an answer "Congrats, you have passed with XX% correct answers".

Do you think that this person should believe it is True, or False, that the purpose of a sprint is to produce a valuable, useful increment?

Personally, I would rather prefer if such a person will remember that purpose of the Sprint is to create consistency with useful Inspect and Adapt loops, as much as to produce useful Increment. I more often witnessed poorly done events, than a lack of at least one Increment within the sprint 🤷🏻‍♂️ So I would say it would be better to reinforce the line of "false" answer, to encourage ppl to actually overthink this a little and not stop at shallow narrowed understanding/focus only on producing the Increment.

Nevertheless, I can accept and understand the line of thinking to remain with a "true" answer. However, this IMHO requires rewriting the feedback provided.

What do you believe would be learned by telling them the answer to this question is 'false'? 

One lesson could be that this is not so straightforward answer. That the purpose of Sprint is not so easy to grasp/reflect in one sentence, it is multi-dimensional, etc.

You, as others on this forum, are clearly committed to helping others and sharing your deeper understanding of Scrum, so in your own words could you provide feedback on why the statement in question is true?

What @Ryan wrote as an explanation is far better feedback, than the one already provided in the open assessment.