Scrum – Separation of rules and strategies

September 12, 2011 at 8:17 am | Posted in Blogroll, Practice Excellence, Scrum and agile, Software Engineering | Leave a comment

Recently in July 2011 Ken Schwaber and
Jeff Sutherland have published the Scrum update and a Scrum guide. The Scrum
update cites an example of the game of Chess and distinguishes between rules of
the game which are applicable to all players, from strategies which can be
different for different players. The accompanying Scrum guide covers the rules,
leaving the numerous strategies for success to other available resources. It
would therefore be worthwhile for a team practicing Scrum to see the rules from
the Scrum guide and identify areas where there are mismatches so that they can
make necessary changes to their practices. Here are a few examples of different
types from the documents. I have quoted them verbatim to ensure authenticity.


I would like to mention here some rules
because of their importance. This is important for teams moving to Scrum for
the first time because it is easy to fall back to old habits. However,
sometimes even the teams already practicing Scrum need to remember them.

  • For the Product Owner to
    succeed, No one is allowed to tell the Development Team to work from a
    different set of priorities, and the Development Team isn’t allowed to act on
    what anyone else says.
  • The Scrum Master is a
    servant-leader for the Scrum Team.
  • In the Sprint planning meeting,
    the plan is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.
  • The number of items selected
    from the Product Backlog for the Sprint is solely up to the Development Team.
    Only the Development Team can assess what it can accomplish over the upcoming
  • The work remaining and date are
    the only variables of interest. The Development Team tracks this total work
    remaining at least for every Daily Scrum.
  • As Scrum Teams mature, it is
    expected that their Definition of “Done” will expand to include more stringent
    criteria for higher quality.



Here are some examples of rules which
are different from what is commonly understood.

  • Scrum recognizes no titles for
    Development Team members other than Developer, regardless of the work being
    performed by the person; there are no exceptions to this rule. Development
    Teams do not contain sub-teams dedicated to particular domains like testing or
    business analysis.
  • The Scrum Master ensures that
    the Development Team has the meeting, but the Development Team is responsible
    for conducting the Daily Scrum.
  • After the Development Team
    forecasts the Product Backlog items it will deliver in the Sprint, the Scrum
    Team crafts a Sprint Goal.
  • The Daily Scrum is not a status
    meeting, and is for the people transforming the Product Backlog items into an
  • Every day, the Development Team
    should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends
    to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the goal and create
    the anticipated increment in the remainder of the Sprint.
  • Each Increment is additive to
    all prior Increments and thoroughly tested, ensuring that all Increments work
    together. A Sprint Review Meeting is an informal meeting, and the presentation
    of the Increment is intended to elicit feedback and foster collaboration.
  • The Sprint Retrospective occurs
    after the Sprint Review and prior to the next Sprint Planning Meeting.


There are also cases of what was once
considered as rules are no more so,

  • Development Teams do not commit
    to completing the work planned during a Sprint Planning Meeting. The
    Development Team creates a forecast of work it believes will be done, but that
    forecast will change as more becomes known throughout the Sprint. The Sprint
    Goal gives the Development Team some flexibility regarding the functionality
    implemented within the Sprint.
  • Scrum does not mandate a
    burn-down chart to monitor progress. Scrum requires only that remaining work
    for a Sprint is summed and known on a daily basis.
  • Release Planning is a valuable
    thing to do when using Scrum, but isn’t required by Scrum itself.
  • The Sprint Backlog is the
    Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan for delivering them.
    There is no longer a required concept of “Sprint Backlog items”.


The erstwhile project managers from the
non-Scrum projects feel loss of power & authority when they move to Scrum
as they typically move over to a role of a Scrum master. The Scrum guide
provides an elaborate list of ways in which a Scrum master can serve the product
owner, development team and the organization. Though the guide specifically
mentions that the Scrum master is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum team
adheres to the rules, I feel he can also serve the team by coaching them on
appropriate strategies to handle different situations.


Those who value their contribution and
understand the importance of being a Scrum master will play the role with full
zeal. On the other hand, those lost in the nostalgia of old glory & power
would neither be here nor there and would soon be ineffective. This may be a
critical decision for them whether they want to continue with a project moving
from non-Scrum to Scrum or move over to another non-Scrum project.


I also feel that even for non-Scrum
projects, the practice of separation between rules & strategies and clearly
identifying & documenting the rules can be quite useful. The team leader
can play an effective role in this and make sure that the rules are followed
and the team members are adequately coached in applying right strategies in a
given situation.


Your views and inputs are valuable;
please share.


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