Scrum project management methodology is based on three pillars: Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation. Each of them helps companies deliver excellent software by adding capacity to manage complex tasks effectively while fostering collaboration, communication, and continual improvement. All of these are vital for the success of your digital product development.
In this article, we’re giving you an overview of these Scrum pillars and explain how they translate into the project environment.
What are the three pillars of Scrum?
The Scrum pillars were established to guide all members of the Scrum Team (a Product Owner, aScrum Master, and a Development Team) in their product development activities.
This Scrum pillar emphasizes the importance of a clear and shared understanding of the project among all participants. It demands that team members, product owners, and stakeholders remain open about all aspects of the project at all times. It refers to the information related to work processes, project progress, challenges, and individual responsibilities.
This mutual understanding is crucial for building trust, effective collaboration, and informed decision-making, which will become vital when the project starts. The Scrum environment with its artifacts will help you achieve this goal.
What does transparency mean in a Scrum environment?
As the facilitator of the Scrum team, the Scrum Master plays a vital role in ensuring the Transparency pillar. It’s about helping all project participants to establish a shared understanding of the status quo. This is achieved through laying down common definitions and standards throughout the project lifecycle.
To stipulate when a software product fulfills all necessary conditions or acceptance criteria and is prepared to be received by a user, customer, or system, Scrum methodology introduces something called “Definition of Done (DoD)” Adhering to this definition is crucial for ensuring quality and meeting all project requirements.
Why is the DoD applied to the Scrum environment?
- To ensure user-centric stories: this can include successful unit testing, completion of code scrutiny, successful functional testing, etc.
- To implement working features: DoD will define when a feature is adequate for release, which means that e.g. it met acceptance criteria, passed automated regression tests, met compliance requirements, etc.
- To complete epics: DoDs define what “done” means in terms of an organization's strategic priority or a set of features that satisfy market requirements.
In essence, the DoD minimizes unnecessary work by preventing user stories that fail to meet the criteria for advancing to more significant environments. It also stops features that don't meet the requirements from reaching the customer or user.
This Scrum pillar requires project participants to regularly examine the project’s progress and working processes. It’s not about micromanagement, however, but about frequently checking whether the project is going in the right direction.
Scrum assumes that regular inspection is necessary to detect undesired outcomes early in the process. These inspections are time-boxed events during which the team discusses what’s working and what’s not, and allows them to realign on the desired activities. It is important, however, that these reviews do not become overly burdensome or disruptive to the work.
What does inspection mean in a Scrum environment?
The Scrum methodology uses a number of events, also known as ceremonies, that help organize the work of the Scrum team and ensure regular inspection of progress. These include:
- Sprint: typically lasts around 2 weeks (maximum one month), during which the team creates a usable, and potentially releasable product increment. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint.
- Sprint Planning: this meeting marks the start of a new Sprint. The Scrum Team decides what it can deliver in the upcoming Sprint and how the work will be achieved.
- Daily Scrum: Also known as the daily stand-up, this is a short (15-minute) meeting for the Development Team to synchronize activities and make a plan for the next 24 hours. This meeting helps identify potential issues and work out a plan to overcome them.
- Sprint Review: concludes a sprint. The Scrum Team and stakeholders look at what was done in the Sprint and the increment. They also talk about what went well and what requires improvement. Also, they groom the Product Backlog if needed.
- Sprint Retrospective: happens after a Sprint Review and before the next Sprint Planning. This is an opportunity for the team to reflect on the past Sprint and plan ways to increase efficiency and quality.
These Scrum events are designed to enable both transparency and inspection: each event is oriented at inspecting and adapting something. The aim is to reduce complexity and enable the team to effectively progress towards the project's goals.
Adaptation is the third of the fundamental Scrum pillars. It stipulates that teams should respond to changes, learn from mistakes, and improve performance as well as the product value continuously. In essence, they should adapt to the learnings from the ceremonies oriented at inspecting the project progress.
What does adaptation mean in a Scrum environment?
Scrum enables adaptation through Sprints. Each iteration (Sprint) reveals clear opportunities to adapt and improve both the product and the process. This happens during the following ceremonies:
- Daily Scrum: gives the Development Team an opportunity to adapt their plan for the next 24 hours, based on the work completed and the challenges encountered in the previous day.
- Sprint Review: the Scrum Team and stakeholders inspect the product increment developed during the Sprint. They discuss what went well and what requires improvement. They also update the Product Backlog accordingly.
- Sprint Retrospective: an opportunity to reflect on the process and the team’s performance during the last Sprint and plan improvements for the next.
In a fast-changing environment, the ability to adapt is crucial for a project's success. The Scrum methodology helps teams stay flexible and responsive to change by fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
What are the Scrum artifacts and how do they incorporate the pillars into the working environment?
Scrum Masters have a number of artifacts at their disposal that help them create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and discussing issues. Let's explore each artifact and how it relates to the Scrum pillars of Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation.
It’s a comprehensive list of features, requirements and tasks (such as fixes or enhancements) that constitute a complete product. It is continuously updated by the Product Owner in accordance with business requirements and customer value. This practical tool offers visibility into what work is pending, what's being worked on, and what goes on the list of current priorities.
- Transparency pillar: the backlog provides a clear vision of what is to be done. It’s the main mechanism for ensuring everyone has a shared understanding of the project,
- Inspection pillar: regular backlog refinement sessions offer opportunities to inspect the backlog items and their priority, facilitating discussions and decision-making,
- Adaptation pillar: items on the backlog are being updated or reprioritized by the product owner as circumstances change.
This is a subset of the Product Backlog, containing tasks that the Development Team commits to complete during the current Sprint. It contains user stories to be completed typically within the next 2-4 weeks. The Sprint Backlog provides visibility into current project priorities as well as the progress.
- Transparency pillar: the Sprint Backlog ensures everyone on the Development Team is on the same page with regards to what needs to be done in the ongoing Sprint,
- Inspection pillar: the Backlog is reviewed daily during the Daily Scrum meetings, when the team discusses progress and issues and tasks planned for the day ahead,
- Adaptation pillar: if the team finds that the sprint goal cannot be achieved, they will renegotiate the Backlog with the Product Owner.
An increment contains all the completed items from the product backlog that are delivered during the latest sprint and all previous sprints. It’s essentially an overview of all the work that the team has completed thus far.
The Scrum methodology assumes that these tools help teams in their problem-solving endeavors as well as innovation.
- Transparency pillar: increments demonstrate progress, making the result of the work transparent to all stakeholders.
- Inspection pillar: an increment is inspected during the Sprint Review by all stakeholders, evaluating the work done against the Sprint Goal.
- Adaptation pillar: based on the feedback from the Sprint Review, the Product Owner may choose to adapt by adjusting the Product Backlog for future Sprints.
Agile artifacts play a crucial role in manifesting the three Scrum pillars. They ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what is to be done, offer regular checkpoints to evaluate progress and processes, and provide the means for continuous improvement and adjustment based on these inspections.
Scrum pillars for successful product development
Transparency, inspection, and adaptation – these three Scrum pillars guide our teams on every product development journey. We swear by them, as they allow us to work efficiently and effectively while maintaining agility and flexibility. It helped us (and continues to help) release multiple successful projects and secure returning customers. If you’d like to know more about our processes or aspects of our work, contact us directly and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.