What is the Scrum Guide?

The Scrum Guide describes all the important key data of the Scrum framework: the Scrum roles, events, artifacts and, of course, the rules that hold everything together. The Scrum Guide is edited by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, the founders of Scrum. As a document, the Scrum Guide is quite short – the current original English version from 2020 comprises just 13 pages. But in terms of content, the Scrum Guide has it all. Let’s take a closer look at what the Scrum Guide actually is.

What does the Scrum Guide describe and what does it not describe?

As mentioned earlier, the Scrum Guide describes the Scrum Roles, Artifacts, and Events, as well as some rules that connect these elements. Scrum is a lightweight framework, not a fully developed method. Therefore, the Scrum Guide is intentionally not a comprehensive set of rules, but a guide on how people should work together in the context of Scrum.

What is described are rough key data and rules of the game, not techniques or even best practices for specific tasks. This is because the Scrum framework is intentionally incomplete, as stated in the Scrum Guide. This means: Within the rough framework, each Scrum team can create its processes and techniques to get to the goal. Although names such as Kanban, Impediment Backlog, Burn-Down-Chart or Velocity are often mentioned in the context of Scrum, they are not fixed components of Scrum. Instead, these are procedures and elements that can support Scrum and are therefore worth a look.

The Scrum Roles in the Scrum Guide

The Scrum Guide describes the Scrum Team and its roles as many practitioners would expect: A Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and up to eight Developers working together in a self-organized manner to achieve an overarching goal, the Product Goal.

The developers are responsible for the implementation and product quality, while the product owner ensures that the product achieves the maximum value and takes care of the product goal and product backlog. In the meantime, the Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team to pursue its goal in an efficient, productive and focused way. He also works continuously to ensure that the Scrum Team as well as the organization understand Scrum even better and apply it more effectively. With this, all Scrum roles are clearly distributed – right?

What the Scrum Guide does not say about the Scrum Team

In the original Scrum Guide, only two and a half pages are dedicated to the Scrum Team, although it plays the most important role in the framework. However, the decisive factor here is again that the Scrum Guide does not describe in detail how exactly the individual tasks are to be implemented. It merely gives implicit indications of the high standards expected of the individuals on the Scrum team.

For example, one paragraph says of the Scrum Master: “Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.” This sentence alone raises far-reaching expectations and questions: What makes a true leader? What is a Servant Leader? What does a service to the Scrum team or organization look like in concrete terms? How can an individual develop to meet all these expectations? If you search on the Internet for the term “servant leader” or “leader who serves”, you will find an almost infinite number of discussions and attempts at definitions.

The Scrum Guide thus offers very generally formulated approaches to the concrete skills that the Scrum team should have. How the Scrum team is finally composed and which skills and personalities should be represented in the team will differ depending on the Scrum team, industry, product and organization.

The Scrum Guide 2020: The current version

The current version of the Scrum Guide is from 2020 and has been translated into over 30 different languages. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland have been publishing the Scrum Guide since 2010. In the process, they repeatedly update, smooth, and refine individual details, sometimes even central concepts. If you have often stumbled across the term “Product Vision” but cannot find it in the Scrum Guide, you can rest assured: The concept is called “Product Goal” in the current version.

So for consistent language alone, it’s worth keeping up to date. The conceptual subtleties can be easily reworked in the Scrum Guide 2020, because the document can be downloaded freely and free of charge. However, the best way to internalize what any changes mean at the higher level is to attend an official training session. Therefore, everyone who deals with Scrum or works with it should not only read the Scrum Guide 2020, but also gain a deeper understanding of it through their own research or professional Scrum training.