“Scrum Revealed — Training Book” doesn’t teach you Scrum

I reveal how International Scrum Institute’s training book doesn’t grasp the essence

Willem-Jan Ageling
Jul 7 · 7 min read

Scrum has one single source of truth. This is the Scrum Guide, created by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. Jeff is from Scrum Alliance and Ken is from Scrum.org. Those are the two institutes that embody Scrum as Scrum is supposed to be.

Several other institutes claim that they also embody Scrum. One of them is International Scrum Institute, creators of “Scrum Revealed Training Book”. I will uncover “Scrum Revealed Training Book” by comparing it with the single source of truth: The Scrum Guide.

Size

Scrum Revealed is 55 pages. This seems like a low number, but the Scrum Guide is only 19 pages. I do understand that more space is needed to deep-dive into Scrum and explain what’s behind it. So the 55 pages didn’t put me off.

What is Scrum?

The Scrum Guide says that Scrum is:

“A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” — Scrum Guide 2017

This is what Scrum Revealed says:

“Scrum is a lightweight agile project management framework mainly used for software development. It describes an iterative and incremental approach for project work.” — Scrum Revealed

They both call it a framework. However there are some major differences:

  • “Addressing complex adaptive problems” vs “Project Management framework”
  • “Delivering products of the highest value” vs “Iterative and incremental approach for project work”.

Product vs Project. I believe we just uncovered the first major difference between the two. Scrum Revealed already starts from a different position.

The word ‘complex’ is key in the description of the Scrum Guide. Scrum thrives in complex environments. “Complex” IS mentioned in Scrum Revealed. However only once is it discussing this with Scrum as a whole:

“Studies have shown that in larger and complex projects about 60% of the initial requirements are changed throughout the project.” — Scrum Revealed

It appears to be a coincidence. It’s isn’t an intentional remark to discuss the essence of Scrum.

Scrum Theory

“Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known […] Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.” — Scrum Guide 2017

The words “empiricism” and “empirical” are absent in Scrum Revealed.

Transparency is mentioned twice (advantage of Sprint Backlog on a task board, Sprint Burndown providing transparency about current performance). Both examples are awkward to say the least. Why transparency is important is never mentioned.

Scrum is founded on the empirical process control theory. The book Scrum Revealed fails to reveal this. That’s not very transparent!

Scrum Values

Scrum Revealed doesn’t mentioned the Scrum Values. The words Commitment, Focus Openness are mentioned, but never in relation to something similar as Scrum Values. Only the word Respect is truly embraced as an important aspect of a Scrum Team.

Intermediary assessment: Scrum Revealed fails to reveal the essence of Scrum

Scrum Revealed is talking about projects, ignores empiricism, largely ignores transparency and doesn’t know the Scrum Values. With this I believe it already disqualifies as a body of knowledge or frame of reference for Scrum.

I will continue my assessment though. I also want to discuss the roles, events and artifacts of Scrum.

Roles

Scrum Revealed identifies the roles Scrum Team, Product Owner and Scrum Master. This is almost correct. Scrum Team should be Development Team.

Scrum Team/Development Team

I don’t want to dive into too much detail — the article would be endless —, but here is my main observation:

According to Scrum Revealed “The people within the Scrum Team work full time in the team” and “People are collocated”. This doesn’t have to be the case!

Scrum Master

Here is my main issue with an — in general — ok assessment of the Scrum Master role:

“An important job of the Scrum Master is to guard the team members from ‘urgent requests’ […] The job of the Scrum Master is to discuss such requests and to either postpone the request until the next sprint starts or to cancel the current sprint and start-over.” — Scrum Explained

No! This is for the Product Owner to discuss (priority of requests) and for the Development Team to decide (not taking the item into the Sprint).

Product Owner

The following quote clarifies my main issues with how the role is described in Scrum Revealed:

‘The Scrum Product Owner is the only person allowed to manage the contents of the Scrum Product Backlog.” — Scrum Revealed

No! The Product Owner is responsible for it. Others (Development Team members) can also manage it. This is a big difference.

Scrum Artifacts

The Product Backlog

“In the simplest definition the Scrum Product Backlog is simply a list of all things that needs to be done within the project.” — Scrum Revealed

This isn’t a simple definition, but a simplistic and incorrect definition!

“The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product.” — Scrum Guide 2017

We see Project vs Product again. Creating a list of all the things needed to be done in a project sounds like a Project Plan including a Big Design Upfront.

The key phrase in the Scrum Guide quote is “What is known”. This brings us back to empiricism: transparency, inspection and adaptation. Typically a Product Backlog DOESN’T have all the items for a product. Because most of it is still unknown!

The Sprint Backlog

“Within the Sprint Backlog all activities required to complete the committed entries from the Scrum Product Backlog are stored. All entries have to be estimated on a person-hour base in order to track progress and remaining efforts.” — Scrum Revealed

Eww!

The second sentence is so bad. This is Scrum at it’s worst.

But the whole statement is wrong. Because :

“The Sprint Backlog is the set of Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal.” — Scrum Guide 2017

Also: the Sprint Backlog is a forecast, not a commitment!

The Increment

Whatdayaknow! This artifact is missing in Scrum Revealed! Nough said.

Scrum Events

Sprint Planning

Although generally described ok the two sessions have a different purpose in Scrum than described in Scrum Revealed. Scrum Revealed only discusses the the Sprint Goal in part 1 while the Scrum Guide also discusses how Product Backlog Items are selected to best meet the Sprint Goal. Therefore the 2nd part of the Sprint Planning is not about selecting the items (Scrum Revealed), but about creating a plan, done by the Development Team.

Daily Scrum

Scrum Revealed discusses the Daily Scrum with the aim of completing all the Backlog Items. The Scrum Guide focuses on establishing the Sprint Goal. This is a big difference.

Also, according to Scrum Revealed a Daily Scrum COULD take longer than 15 minutes. Which is NOT the case.

Sprint Review

This quote says enough about how Scrum Revealed misses the mark here:

“Participants in the sprint review typically include the Scrum Product Owner, the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master. Additionally management, customers, and developers from other projects might participate as well.” — Scrum Revealed

Others MIGHT participate? No, the stakeholders are KEY in a Sprint Review!

Sprint Retrospective

Scrum Revealed doesn’t say much about the retrospective. But what is says is very prescriptive in how to do it. Something the Scrum Guide would never be.

Not Scrum

Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that are considered to be Scrum according to Scrum Revealed, but certainly aren’t:

  • User Stories – can be complementary practice
  • Planning Poker – can be complementary practice
  • Burndown Chart – can be complementary practice
  • Burndown Reports – can be complementary practice
  • Scrum Release Planning – can be complementary practice
  • Project Management framework – No!
  • Potentially Releasable Product – potentially releasable increment (that’s something entirely different)
  • Tuckman model – model that gives insight in how teams can function. Not Scrum.
  • Large Scrum projects – No!

Conclusion

Scrum Revealed assumes plan-ability of unknown work (just with shorter cycle times). Their understanding of Scrum is fundamentally flawed.

Don’t fall for it. This Scrum Revealed book does reveal a lot: the writers don’t grasp Scrum.

This should be enough said about the Scrum certificates issued by the authors of this book: they are simply worthless. True Scrum practitioners won’t believe that you mastered Scrum if you show this credential as proof.


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Thanks Leon Krancher and Max Heiliger for your valuable input.

Serious Scrum

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Thanks to Pieter V and Leon Krancher.

Willem-Jan Ageling

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Interested in ways to work better together. I love the discussion with open-minded people.

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.