The Agile methodology today is one of the most popular and talked-about project management styles. And that’s no surprise, given that collaboration is the driving force behind innovation. Whether part of a tech giant, a thriving startup, or deeply involved in software development, mastering effective teamwork is the key to navigating the ever-evolving tech landscape. And getting a proper introduction to Agile and Scrum is the best place to start.
But what is Agile, who uses it, and is it right for your team? We’ll answer these questions (and more) with a full introduction to Agile and Scrum.
Introduction to Agile: What is Agile?
Agile originated from a group of 17 tech experts aiming to revolutionize software development. They met in Snowbird, Utah, and crafted the Agile Manifesto—a concise set of values and principles:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Agile prioritizes individuals, working software, collaboration, and adaptability while acknowledging the value of processes and tools, documentation, contracts, and plans. Importantly, Agile isn’t exclusive to software; it adapts seamlessly to various teams and projects.
They also came up with twelve principles (which, again, at first, seem specific to software development but can be adapted quite easily).
Agile vs. Scrum: Clarifying the relationship
Many use “Agile” and “Scrum” interchangeably, but they have distinct roles. Agile represents a set of values and principles, while Scrum is a specific framework aligned with Agile principles.
Think of it like a diet and a recipe: Agile is the diet, defining what’s permissible, while Scrum is a popular recipe to implement Agile principles.
Origins of Agile and Scrum
While the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto hadn’t been part of a formal creed before the 2000s, the ideas weren’t new, even for the time. In fact, they originated out of techniques popularized by Japanese companies. Companies like Toyota, Fuji, and Honda in the ’70s and ’80s.
In the mid-’90s, these exceptional Japanese companies particularly inspired two men, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. At the time, standard workflow styles, like the Waterfall Model and other predictive methodologies, weren’t cutting it for software developers. Teams were delivering software slowly and weren’t able to adapt quickly to new changes or requests. Consequently, projects often went way over budget. Sutherland and Schwaber admired the more adaptive and efficient models these Japanese companies followed and decided they would create a similar framework. “Scrum” was born.
Sutherland and Schwaber went on to be two of the 17 software development leaders who eventually created the Agile Manifesto. Schwaber even founded both the Agile Alliance and the Scrum Alliance, two nonprofit organizations committed to advancing Agile and Scrum principles and practices.
Scrum has spread rapidly ever since, recruiting software development teams around the world to adopt its values.
While Scrum is well-known in engineering, it’s also embraced by various industries. From manufacturing to marketing and education, Scrum’s adaptability is a hallmark of its success.
As long as your projects involve a concrete product, Scrum can work for you.
Understanding the Scrum framework
Everything naturally centers around the product. Teams maintain a prioritized “backlog” of features and tasks, continuously evolving based on end-user value.
Business goals, market conditions, customer needs, and available technology evolve over time. As this happens, they’ll insert new items into the backlog and organize them according to their relative importance to the end user.
The dynamic nature and adaptability of this backlog are what allows teams to remain flexible while consistently producing meaningful features faster than other project management models.
The Scrum team
Scrum Teams consist of a Product Owner, a Development Team, and a Scrum Master.
- The Product Owner is in charge of prioritization as well as feature approval. It’s their job to manage the backlog in a way that best serves the end-users.
- The Scrum Master is responsible for guiding, coaching, teaching, and assisting the Scrum Team along the way towards proper understanding and use of Scrum.
- The Development team self-organizes to complete the work at hand and contributes to identifying and iterating on processes.
They work in “Sprints,” typically two-week focused periods. Daily Stand-Up meetings ensure team alignment. At the end of each Sprint, the group holds a review, called a Retrospective, to discuss ways to improve the next one. Frequent Retrospectives allow the team to iterate quickly.
How to introduce Agile to a team
One of the best features of Agile and Scrum is that you don’t need any special equipment or training to try it. The hardest part is learning the jargon and holding yourself and your team stringently to the rules and guidelines that make Scrum work.
All you need to run your first Scrum Sprint is the following:
Download the Definitive Guide to Scrum. Pass it along to your team, and make sure everyone gets a proper introduction to Agile.
Appoint your Scrum Master and Product Owner. The Scrum Master should do more research on facilitating Scrum to prepare.
Create and prioritize your backlog. While your backlog is technically never “complete,” the Product Owner can create the version that makes the most sense today.
Conduct your first Sprint Planning. First, decide your Sprint length (you don’t have to do two weeks, but keep it under a month.) The team then determines what tasks to include in the Sprint and who will be responsible for them. Scrum members organize everything for themselves.
Schedule your Daily Stand-Up. Add a 15-minute block to everyone’s calendar at the same time each morning to discuss three questions:
- What did you work on yesterday?
- What will you work on today?
- Is anything blocking you from doing your work today that you need help with?
Get to work! Everyone on the team should focus on the tasks they accepted and prepare to discuss their progress at the next Daily Stand-Up.
Review the work. At the end of the Sprint, your team should review the work accomplished and present completed tasks to the group.
Hold a retrospective to review your process. The Retrospective meeting is where your team examines how the actual workflow went and suggests ways to make it more efficient next time.
Deliver to your end-user. One of the most unique and advantageous aspects of Scrum is the fact that you’re continuously delivering work and receiving feedback often. If your user never sees the product until the very end, you delay opportunities for quick improvements and key insights into your customer. When you do deliver, you will have a much muddier picture of which features are a success and which ones aren’t, not to mention you’ll waste a lot of time on things that it turns out your customers don’t like that could have easily been avoided had you been using Scrum properly.
Repeat. Update your backlog, pick more tasks from the top, and repeat the process again and again. Over time, you will see your backlog grow and refine and your processes streamlined. Before you know it, you’ll be a true Scrum machine!
Embrace Agile and Scrum for remote work
In the dynamic world of technology, mastering collaboration is the key to innovation and progress. Agile and Scrum methodologies have proven their worth across industries, ensuring that teams work seamlessly and efficiently. Whether you’re a tech giant, a burgeoning startup, or an agile software developer, these methodologies provide the framework to thrive.
To supercharge your Agile and Scrum journey, consider utilizing cutting-edge Agile project management software like Nulab’s Backlog. With intuitive tools and features tailored to Agile and Scrum practices, you can streamline collaboration, manage your backlog effortlessly, and achieve unparalleled success in your tech projects. Embrace the future of tech collaboration—start your introduction to Agile and Scrum journey today with the right tools at your fingertips!
This post was originally published on September 26, 2016, and updated most recently on September 14, 2023.