5 October, 2023

Scrum 101: The Fundamentals of the Agile Scrum Methodology

The Scrum methodology is the most widely used agile methodology. Its simplicity makes Scrum an excellent entry into Agile Project Management.

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Back-story of the Scrum Methodology

The Scrum methodology was created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, who currently run scrum.org and Scrum Inc respectively.

However, it derives from a 1986 Harvard Business Review article, ‘The New New Product Development Game’, by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka.

They described a new approach to NPD, New Product Development. In it, a single cross-functional team moves the process through a series of overlapping phases, passing the product back and forth through a series of iterations. The name ‘scrum’ derives from the rugby metaphor they used.

Takeuchi and Nonaka argued that their process would increase the speed and flexibility of product development. Schwaber and Sutherland adopted many of their ideas and published their approach in 1995. In 2001, they were among the 18 signatories to the Agile Manifesto.

The Scrum Team

Scrum has three roles, which make up the Scrum Team.

  1. Development Team
  2. Product Owner
  3. Scrum Master

We will look at the part each plays.

The Development Team

The engineers who build the product or products. It is self-organizing and self-managing, and usually cross-functional, with all the skills and capabilities it needs.

The Product Owner

An individual who focuses on the needs of users, customers, and other stakeholders. Their job is to understand what the stakeholders want and need, and to turn them into specifications for specific functionality, called Stories.

The Scrum Master

The professional who focuses on the Scrum Team. They facilitate the Scrum Process and manage the 5 Scrum Events, to deliver the project as efficiently and effectively as possible. They are the source of knowledge and advice on the Scrum process, and the principal problem-solver for managerial and process challenges.

The Scrum Methodology Process

Product Backlog

The Scrum process begins with a product backlog (the first of 3 Scrum Artifacts). This is an ordered list of work that the Development Team will carry out to either improve the product or create new components or functionality. The team commits to the Product Goal (the first of 3 Scrum Commitments).

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is the first of 5 ‘Scrum Events’. It initiates the Sprint – the ‘heartbeat’ of Scrum. The outcome of Sprint Planning is the Sprint Backlog (the second of 3 Scrum Artifacts) in which the team commits to the Sprint Goal (the second of 3 Scrum Commitments).

In Sprint planning, the team will answer questions like:

  • Why will this Sprint be valuable? 
    That is, what is the Sprint Goal?
  • What can we deliver in this Sprint?
    That is, which elements of the Product Backlog?
  • How will we do the work?
    …to meet our Definition of Done.

Typically Sprint Planning events are timeboxed at around 2 hours.

The Sprint

The Sprint is the second scrum event. It is a fixed length (‘timeboxed’) period of work for the Development Team. Outside of scrum, it would be called an iteration. Most commonly it will be two weeks. The purpose of a Sprint is to deliver an Increment (the third of 3 Scrum Artifacts).

Daily Scrums

During the sprint, the team will hold Daily Scrums – the third type of Scrum Event. Here, they inspect their progress toward the Sprint Goal. Typically Daily Scrum events are timeboxed at around 15 minutes and will be held at the same time, in the same place, every day of the Sprint.

Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, but before the Development Team can declare the Increment to be ‘Done’, they must expose it to inspection and scrutiny by their users, customers, and other stakeholders.

This is at a Scrum Event called a Sprint Review – also known as a ‘showcase’. The purpose is to determine whether the Increment meets the Definition of Done (the third of 3 Scrum Commitments). This is a checklist of criteria that the Increment must meet, to satisfy the users’ requirements and therefore for them to consider it usable.

The Scrum Team and their stakeholders will determine whether they need the team to make any further adaptations, in a future Sprint. The review is also a chance to:

  • Discuss progress
  • Review the Product Backlog
  • Determine the next set of priorities

Typically Sprint Review events are timeboxed at around 1 hour.

Sprint Retrospective

Once the team has delivered the Increment, they will meet to review their work together. This is the final Scrum Event, called a Sprint Retrospective. The discussion includes the whole Scrum Team – but only the Scrum Team. They look for ways to work more effectively and efficiently in the next Sprint. Their discussion will include:

  • team dynamics
  • individual performance
  • development and management processes
  • tools and methods
  • The outcome should include tangible actions the team can take to make the next Sprint better than the last.

Typically Sprint Retrospective events are timeboxed at around 1 hour.

The Underlying Principles of the Scrum Methodology

The Scrum methodology is based on 2 Bases:

1: Lean Thinking

This is a principle that has a strong focus on what is essential and an equal priority for eliminating waste.

2: Empiricism

This is a principle that what we can most confidently rely upon is the knowledge that we gain from experience and direct observation. We can see Scrum’s 3 Pillars of Empiricism in the Scrum Events.

Pillar 1: Transparency

All work must be visible to the whole Scrum Team and their stakeholders. This allows anyone to inspect, understand, and critique the work…

Pillar 2: Inspection

We must inspect all the work we do, and we must inspect it often. This allows us to detect problems, and detect them as soon as possible. And this means we can adapt accordingly…

Pillar 3: Adaptation

If we find problems or deviate from our Sprint or Product Goals, we need to make changes. And the sooner we can do this, the better.

Five Scrum Values

Finally, Scrum encourages team members to adopt and work to five values:

  1. Commitment
    …to achieve the Product Goal and the Sprint Goals, and to support each other in doing this
  2. Focus
    …on the work they need to do to meet the Sprint Goal in the most effective way
  3. Openness
    …about the work we are doing and openness to feedback and challenges that can improve our individual and team performance
  4. Respect
    …for fellow team members, their capabilities, and their ability to focus on their own portion of work
  5. Courage
    …to do what is right (rather than what is expedient) and to pursue the difficult questions and take on the tough challenges

Learning and Certification

The two principal Scrum organizations are the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. Each has its own Scrum certification courses and exams.

Scrum Alliance

Scrum Alliance offers 15 certifications, in five tracks:

  • Scrum Master track
    Three tiers of Scrum Master certification, starting with CSM: Certified Scrum Master
  • Product Owner track
    Three tiers of Product Owner certification, starting with CSPO: Certified Scrum Product Owner
  • Developer track
    Three tiers of Developer certification, starting with CSD: Certified Scrum Developer
  • Agile Leadership track
    Three tiers of Agile Leadership certification, starting with CAL-E: Certified Agile Leadership Essentials
  • Guide level certifications
    Three tiers of coaching and training certification, starting with CTC: Certified Team Coach

The entry point for Project Managers is CSM. We recommend the GreyCampus Certified Scrum Master (CSM) Training.


Scrum.org offers 12 certifications:

  • Scrum Master track
    Three tiers of Scrum Master certification, starting with PSM I: Professional Scrum Master I
  • Product Owner track
    Three tiers of Product Owner certification, starting with PSPO I: Professional Scrum Product Owner I
  • Developer track
    One tier of Developer certification, PSD: Professional Scrum Development
  • Agile Leadership track
    Two tiers of Agile Leadership certification, starting with PAL: Professional Agile Leadership
  • Three special topic certifications
    • SPS: Scaled Professional Scrum
    • PSK: Professional Scrum with Kanban
    • PSU: Professional Scrum with User Experience

The entry point for Project Managers is PSM I: Professional Scrum Master I. We recommend the mPlaza Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) exam preparation course.

I will put links to the courses I recommend, in the description.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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