The Scrum Guide 2020 and the Changes

On 18 November, the new Scrum Guide 2020 was officially released. With the new 2020 Version of the Scrum Guide, the Scrum community celebrates 25 years of Scrum. Dr. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, with contributions from the Scrum community, have made updates to make the Scrum Guide crisper, leaner and more transparent. In this article you can read what has changed and what are the reasons behind it. Read on so you are up to date.

Based on 25 Years Experience

In year 2000, right after the agile manifesto, the first version of the Scrum Guide, according to Ken Schwaber, had 160 pages, and it had seven phases. The first officially published version in 2010 by ScrumAlliance® had 13 pages. The Scrum Guide developed further and further with the goal of being applicable not only in software development projects, but in any area where something new is created.

The last version of the Scrum Guide was released in 2017. The new version was presented on November 18, 2020, it is even more streamlinded, has even fewer expressions and is even less prescriptive.
According the authors, the updated Scrum Guide is leaner, but its core remains empirical. The key pillars of Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation are still the cornerstones of good Scrum. The updated Scrum Guide is based on 25 years of Scrum practiced by the Scrum community.

Scrum hasn’t changed at all—we’re just getting the description better”

Jeff Sutherland

The following description is the executive summary which can be read on the website from Here you find the main changes compared to 2017 version of the Scrum Guide.

These Are The Main Changes

It is Even Less Prescriptive

Over the years, the Scrum Guide started getting a bit more prescriptive. The 2020 version aims to bring Scrum back to being a minimally sufficient framework. This was achieved by removing the Daily Scrum questions, softening language around PBI attributes and retro items in Sprint Backlog, shortening the Sprint cancellation section, and much more.
In this form, the Scrum Guide creates a solid foundation without strong limitations and can be supplemented with best practices and own experiences depending on the situation and the experience of the team.

One Team, Focused on One Product

The goal was to eliminate the concept of a separate team within a team that has led to “proxy” or “us and them” behavior between the Product Owner and Development Team. The term “development team” was eliminated. There is now just one Scrum Team focused on the same objective, with three different sets of accountabilities: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers (anybody who is working on the sprint increment). This strengthens the team spirit, cooperation, and focus on the product to be developed.

Introduction of Product Goal

The 2020 Scrum Guide introduces the concept of a Product Goal to provide a focus for the Scrum Team toward a larger, valuable objective. Each Sprint should bring the product closer to the overall Product Goal.

The product owner is responsible for making sure that the Product Backlog has a goal that the team understands, is excited about it and commits to it — and the whole team are moving together towards it.

A Home for the Sprint Goal, Definition of Done, and the Product Goal

Previous Scrum Guides described Sprint Goal and Definition of Done without really giving them an identity. They were not quite artifacts but were somewhat attached to artifacts. With the addition of Product Goal, the 2020 version provides more clarity. Each of the three artifacts now contain commitments to them. For the Product Backlog it is the Product Goal, the Sprint Backlog has the Sprint Goal, and the Increment has the Definition of Done. They exist to bring transparency and focus toward the progress of each artifact.

Self-Managing over Self-Organizing

Previous Scrum Guides referred to Development Teams (team members who are working on the sprint increment) as self-organizing, choosing who and how to do work. With a stronger focus on the Scrum Team, the 2020 version emphasizes a self-managing Scrum team, which decides what is done, who does it and how it is done. The intention with “self-manging” is an even higher degree of self-determination.

Three Sprint Planning Topics

In addition to the Sprint Planning topics of “What” and “How,” the 2020 Scrum Guide places emphasis on a third topic, “Why.” This third topic refers to the Sprint Goal.

According to Jeff, great Scrum teams have always answered all three questions. It’s just that “Why” wasn’t listed in the guide. So now we’re talking about the Why, the What and the How. You hear these phrases in Agile all the time. Start with Why—that that’s the best way to start! It helps to get everybody on the same page and get everybody motivated when the Scrum team knows why it’s doing what it’s doing.

Great Scrum teams have always answered all three questions. The Why? What? and How? It’s just that Why wasn’t listed in the guide.”

Overall Simplification of Language for a Wider Audience

The 2020 Scrum Guide places an emphasis on eliminating redundant and complex statements and removing any remaining inference to IT work (e.g. testing, system, design, requirement, etc). By generalizing terms and simplifying the language, Scrum Guide should be even more universally applicable, e.g. in industry, health care or other branches of business.The Scrum Guide is now less than 13 pages.

What is My Opinion About the New Scrum Guide?

I have always been in favor of simple, easy to understand and generally applicable project management frameworks that give users a few rules to follow and define basic values, but also give a lot of freedom as to how the work is then implemented according to best practices. The Scrum Guide also has this strategy.

In my opinion, the Scrum Guide revision team went too far this time and “neutralized” and simplified the guide so that Scrum can really be used in all areas of the business world. It is now so superficial that you can’t use it in this way and, for example, for software projects you need a separate, more specific guide.
Here is an example: In the whole Guide you can’t find the term requirements any more. Only backlog items are mentioned. But what are backlog items? Those who are not familiar with the term now have no idea. The term requirement was probably already too IT-heavy.

Old: “The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.”

New: The Product Backlog is an emergent, ordered list of what is needed to improve the product. It is the single source of work undertaken by the Scrum Team.”
Is it assumed here that a product already exists? That is incomprehensible.

However, they have not only simplified the Scrum Guide but also “complicated” it, because a new distinction is made between “Responsible” and “Accountable“. Was this really necessary? From my point of view not!

Self-managed over self-organizing? The arguments of Jeff Sutherland in the presentation of the new guide did not convince me at all. In my opinion, this is just nagging at words and does not help the Scrum Guide and its users. What do you think?

The introduction of a product goal that is oriented towards a higher goal was overdue. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber avoid the term Product Vision, but in my opinion it means the “higher goal”. Product vision is common in agile projects, but it demands the product owner and is therefore perhaps not yet used enough.

The abolition of the term “Development Team” makes sense. There is only one team – the Scrum Team – and this promotes cooperation and tears down boundaries.

You can download the new Scrum-Guide 2020 here.

Here You Can Find Even More Knowledge

This was an overview of the new Scrum Guide 2020 with its major changes. What do you think about the new version? Do you agree with my statements or do you have a different opinion? Share your experience with the readers with a commentary so that we all get to know another view. Thank you!

Would you like to learn more about how Scrum can make your Agile Projects even more successful? My book “Scrum – How to Successfully Apply Agile Project Management and Scrum” takes you an important step further!

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Posted in Agile Project Management.

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