What is Professional Scrum?
Most people familiar with Scrum know that the brand “Professional Scrum” is synonymous with Scrum.org. When Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum, started Scrum.org in 2009 he wrote:
“Our mission remains the same as it was when we started - to help our profession rise to the demands of an increasingly complex world that relies on increasingly complex technologies and products. Advances in materials and techniques can only succeed if we shift to a collaborative, creative approach… As we use Scrum, we continue to find new opportunities for professional improvement.”
With that mission in mind, Ken branded what he was building with the trademark Professional Scrum, but what does it really mean?
Scrum was originally developed for complex software development projects, but is now being used on almost any type of team-based product work. The framework as defined in the Scrum Guide is a simple yet powerful way to bring order to complexity through learning by providing opportunities for frequent feedback on both how we work and the thing we have been and will be working on.
The Fundamentals of Scrum are:
- Empirical process through evidence-based inspection and adaptation of how the work is done and what is being delivered
- Self-managed, empowered teams who are closest to the problems and the work to best make decisions
- Continuous improvement based on what is learned on an ongoing basis
The Scrum framework is fairly simple being made up of a team with three accountabilities, who take part in five events and produce three artifacts. With Scrum, important decisions are based on the perceived state of the three artifacts making their transparency critical. Artifacts that have low transparency can lead to decisions that diminish value and increase risk. Transparency enables inspection and leads to greater trust among the team and others within the organization.
To be effective with Scrum however, requires something more than just following the mechanics and fundamentals of the framework, this requires mindset techniques for ways of working and thinking, and an environment that supports it including trust.
Scrum Team members need the ability to be flexible and have a longing for constant feedback and improvement. In the book Agile Software Development with Scrum written by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle in 2001, they discuss the Scrum Values which were later added to the Scrum Guide in 2016. As part of Professional Scrum, the Scrum Team members need to understand and live the Scrum Values:
- Courage to do the right thing and work through difficult problems
- Focus on delivering value to users, customers and stakeholders every Sprint
- Commitment to achieving the Sprint Goal, Product Goal and Definition of Done
- Respect each other's experiences, backgrounds and abilities
- Openness about all work and any challenges with performing that work
Scrum Teams and their organizations need to embrace a growth mindset. As described in a January 2016 HBR article by Carol Dweck, “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”
This is important because complex problems require out-of-the-box thinking to apply different solutions and try new things, often doing things that have not been done before. When Scrum Teams and their organizations embrace a growth mindset, Scrum Team members feel far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation.
The Agile Manifesto describes four elements:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Combined with the Scrum Values, these elements help describe the need to be outcome oriented. Outcome oriented Scrum Teams and individuals work on problems that, when solved, deliver value to customers and stakeholders and if value is not being delivered, they adapt and evolve.
At the same time, Scrum Teams need to balance different needs between the types of stakeholders. For example, there are stakeholders inside the organization and users or consumers of what is being delivered each with often conflicting needs. This requires that the Scrum Team considers what is best based on the information at hand.
With Professional Scrum, Scrum Teams strive to do the right things for stakeholders by delivering value. The measurement of value helps Scrum Teams to focus on outcomes while gathering metrics that help guide improvement. Evidence-Based Management™ (EBM) is a framework organizations can use to help them measure, manage, and increase the value they derive from their product delivery. EBM focuses on improving outcomes, reducing risks, and optimizing investments. EBM helps organizations put their right measures in place to invest in the right places, make smarter decisions and reduce risk using an iterative and incremental approach. This empirical method alongside the agile principles and values enables successful steps of change for the organization.
Ongoing Learning and Development
As a main fundamental of Scrum is empiricism, ongoing learning and development is a core tenant of Professional Scrum. Scrum is a team activity, but one where each team is small. The team requires all of the skills and experience to solve the problems it is assigned. To be effective, Scrum Team members work together and help each other.
They often create communities of practice, participate in outside activities and are always looking for new ways to share experiences. They learn from others based on different experiences, grow their knowledge and improve as a part of a the global community of Scrum practitioners.
Ken Schwaber describes a professional as someone who follows established rules for the profession. He also adds that to be a professional means embracing a set of ethical standards. These standards both unify members of a profession and define that profession to the outside world, as does the Hippocratic Oath for the medical profession.
As Scrum is used in many industries and on various types of products at a global level, ethical standards may depend on the type of work being done and be defined by the industry, team and organization.