Scrum is simple, just use it as is!!

Scrum is a mindset, an approach to turning complex, chaotic problems into something that can be used. Jeff Sutherland and I based it on these pillars:

  1. Small, self-organizing, self-managing teams;
  2. Lean principles; and,
  3. Empiricism, using frequent inspection and adaptation to guide the work of the teams to the most successful outcome possible.

The Scrum Guide is a body of knowledge that explicitly defines what Scrum is (and, by default, what it isn’t). The Scrum Guide doesn’t tell you how to use Scrum, how to implement Scrum, or how to build products with Scrum.

People learned what Scrum was and how to use it by going to courses, conferences, reading books and blogs, etc.   but primarily by trying to create useful things from visions, concepts, and desires using their understanding of Scrum. As they went at it, Scrum started to make sense. Scrum helped them manage outcomes, But… When people tried to use Scrum, they learned that the difficulty of Scrum was getting a shared understanding of what was desired, what was possible, what their skills would allow them to create, and to work together to do their best.

In 2009, I recognized we had broken the waterfall mold. People understood – largely – that our “agile, lightweight” approach worked and was appropriate for the emerging complexity in the world. However, just like the telephone-tag game, there were many interpretations of Scrum… Sometimes this was because poor communications, inadequate mentoring, and other commercial reasons. People who felt that Scrum would tell them how to build a product to solve their needs felt that Scrum was weak because Scrum didn’t explicitly tell them how.

Exactly. As I’ve often said, Scrum is easy. Solving problems with Scrum is very hard.

So …. In 2009, when I founded I wrote a definition of Scrum. This was short, but retained all of Jeff’s and my important thinking and learnings. I made sure that it retained its identify as a framework and eschewed inclusion of opinions, context-dependent practices, and anything that restrained it to only certain applications. A framework, not a methodology.

This was the first Scrum Guide, and it was the definitive body of knowledge. Anything not in the Guide, or contrary to the guide was not Scrum.

I created some assessments that helped people test their understanding of Scrum anonymously and for free. The initial results were scores below 40 percent correct. As people went back to the Scrum Guide and studied, these scores rapidly improved.

I wrote the Scrum Guide, and Jeff Sutherland then joined me to refine, sustain, and maintain it, so that:

  1. Courses could be developed based on what Scrum was, not something else.
  2. People who taught courses would have a solid foundation to stand on.
  3. We could develop assessments to test whether a person knew Scrum and how to use it to solve their problems.
  4. Anyone could evaluate their understanding of Scrum and whether what they had been taught or told conformed.


The Scrum Guide was created from Jeff’s and my work, and the work of everyone else that had tried to use Scrum. It has been adjusted by us since then. The Scrum Guide has no commercial purpose other than to offer a litmus test of what Scrum is.

Jeff and I maintain the Scrum Guide at . We are indebted to the people who have translated the Guide and to those who help us sustain it.

REMEMBER:  Scrum is simple. Stop worrying about polishing it up so it is perfect, because it never will be. Anyway, there are far too many complex, chaotic situations in our world that you are skilled to help others address. We do not need to waste our time staring at our belly-buttons.

As the Kingston Trio famously sang:

The Merry Minuet

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away!!

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man



Scrum On … Ken

26 thoughts on “Scrum is simple, just use it as is!!

  1. Agree. The issue has even come from within our ranks I making adoptions as poster child’s. This created confusion and resistant behavior. People want to be recognized for fame and fortune. Yet in the larger sense the drive creates a reversion to traditional forms. So instead of advance progress becomes retarded.

  2. Yes. Your legacy will increase definitely. All the noise will eventually dissipate and settle. Things evolve. Scrum will ‘internally’ have its own Sprints. The people around will all contribute and help that vision…

  3. I am translating the Scrum Guide for my fourth time into Italian and I am still amazed at how deep and simple at the same time the description of the framework is. Also, you and Jeff will never be credit enough for the direct and indirect positive impact Scrum is having on the current world and very probably on the future. Much is left to do to solve complex/chaotic situation and you have provided all of us with a very valuable key. Kudos to you.

  4. Thank you very much for this reminder of the obvious…..
    Dealing with complexity and miscellaneousness of human behaviour in daily business sometimes can be a little exhausting.
    At these moments it helps to have something to resort to. And the Scrum Guide and its philosophy definately can be this something.

  5. Pingback: We Fix Bad Scrum – Vitality Chicago

  6. Pingback: Are Hybrid Agile Project Management Approaches Effective? – Vitality Chicago

  7. Pingback: We Fix Bad Scrum – Vitality Chicago

  8. Hi Ken, I’m Andiswa from SA Cape Town. Im doing my Master’s at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I need your assistance with regards to Scrum being agile. I currently hold a BTech in Financial Information Systems. While consulting with my supervisors they suggested that on my research I can prove Scrum manifesto of being Agile is not necessary the case for some organisations and business.

    Will you kindly assist me with my research.


  9. Pingback: We Fix Bad Scrum | Vitality Chicago

  10. Dear Ken, I have recently come across the work of Ivar Jacobson on SEMAT/Essence in an effort to standardise practices and describe software development approaches in a formal, common language. You are one of the signatories, and I also saw Jeff Sutherland’s collaboration with Ivar in “translating” Scrum to Essence. Can you tell us your views on SEMAT/Essence and how it affects Scrum, or indeed, the Agile world at large? Thank you!

  11. I like to encourage Ivar. But I believe that each organization, team, and project will select the best approach and processes. Setting goals and standards (done) is really, really important. My approach was a library of SDK’s (see WordPress entry on SDKs), and architecture as a framework to work within (such as IOS and the SDKs that help developers create value with guidance and standard).

    However, he does forget that defined processes, that tell you what to do, are either cumbersome or inappropriate.

    Scrum will never translate to SEMAT/Essence without damaging the Scrum values and the intentions in the Guide.


    • Thank you, Ken. As I read more and more about SEMAT/Essence I couldn’t help but think that it seems to be going against what the Agile movement is all about. And I chose this topic in your blog (simplicity) on purpose, of course. Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools, right? Keep up the good work!

  12. “…Scrum is easy. Solving problems with Scrum is very hard.”
    I guess, solving the problems is hard (independent of Scrum). Scrum just shows how hard it really is, instead of allowing to pretend that it’s all “professionally” planed and taken care of.
    Thanks for your contribution Ken!

    • Absolutely Anton…I’ve thought of it as “Scrum is easy until you get the people involved”. It seems that where the trouble starts. Fears…etc.

  13. In case you are the type of one who is lower than thrilled with
    the prospect of working in the identical office, day after day, eliminating this type of
    routine is likely one of the most vital highlights that you would be able to obtain from freelancing.
    While you hire your self out as a freelancer, each and every job task that you just take on can be a brand new adventure.
    Not only will the work setting fluctuate, however you will also have the chance to satisfy many
    more attention-grabbing people. This issue alone is likely
    one of the foremost the reason why many paralegals choose freelancing over committing themselves to 1 specific

  14. Thank you Ken, for keeping Scrum simple as it is. I learn more and more about the power of its simplicity each day. You have been my inspiration since I first took my PSM class with you. You have inspired me to stand up for the profession.

    • This makes us look forward to each new day. Simplicity and empowerment, plus team mates.

      On Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 1:02 PM Ken Schwaber's Blog: Telling It Like It Is wrote:


  15. Pingback: Скрам — это легко! Просто используйте его, как есть! - Блог AgiliX Consulting

  16. Pingback: Ken Schwaber's Blog: Telling It Like It Is > Seekalgo

  17. Pingback: My Favorite Scrum Event to Facilitate - Don’t Skip This One!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s