Understanding the Scrum Pillars – Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation
Like any other project management framework, the Scrum methodology is not without some foundational principles that serve as its backbone. Scrum is very easy to understand and is applicable to product development of all kinds, not just in IT. In fact, it is currently used in marketing, HR, education, and other fields.
Nevertheless, it is often difficult to master the Scrum framework because it requires continuous practice and familiarisation. In order for an agile team to maximise the use of this framework, understanding the three scrum pillars, transparency, inspection and adaptation, is one of the first important steps to make.
What is Scrum?
Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, co-developers of Scrum, defines this framework as a way to address complex adaptive problems in an organisation while creatively and productively delivering products of the highest value. If we are to go deeper in understanding this definition, we will realise two basic concepts that make up the Scrum methodology:
- It is a process framework. Scrum is not a complete process for building products. The Scrum methodology only provides a specific framework or manner of doing things, not the step-by-step process. It is up to the agile team what techniques, processes and tools to be used throughout the course of the project.
- It addresses complex adaptive problems. What makes Scrum really effective and relevant in today’s’ organisational needs is that it has the ability to quickly adapt to situations that are complex, unpredictable or always changing. Contrary to the defined process control wherein there is a set of predefined processes to be followed from launch to completion, Scrum utilises empirical process control. This approach is based on observations and evidence rather than detailed and upfront planning.
Empirical Process Control
The Scrum methodology is based on an empirical process. This concept revolves around the idea that we can find out the truth through experiments with concrete and observable results.
But in order to make good observations, there are three things necessary: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. We call these the three Pillars of Scrum.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into each one.
Scrum Pillars – Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation
By transparency, we mean that everyone in the agile team should have a clear understanding of the Scrum goals and their individual roles and responsibilities. How do you know that you are practising a high level of transparency in your team?
- First of all, an agile team should have a common language particularly when it comes to the processes involved. Everyone, from the Scrum Master to the Product Owner, team members, and stakeholders know what they are dealing with and what needs to be done in order to achieve their goal.
- The team has to be aligned with a single definition of done. So when an increment or task from the product backlog is done, everybody knows what that means and implies.
- There’s an easy and transparent flow of information. Everyone should have a complete understanding of the Scrum artifacts: product backlog, sprint backlog, project vision and mission, increment, etc.
- They also have to be present during daily meetings, sprint review meetings, etc. and must be aware of the tools that the entire team uses (e.g. Burndown Chart, Scrumboard).
Inspection is a critical aspect of empirical process control as it what makes the Scrum framework adaptive to complex problems. Inspection is done not only by the Scrum Master, PO or CEOs. It is done by everyone involved in the project.
Organisations using Scrum regularly inspect artifacts to see undesirable variances and provide opportunities to correct them. One example is when the Scrum team shows the progress of the product outcome to the customer (client) at the end of each sprint to get their feedback. When there are changes proposed by the customer or the stakeholder, the team adapts to these changes until they all agree with the final product.
Apart from the product, inspection can be done in all other aspects of the Scrum framework – the processes, people, practices, etc. However, the inspection should not be as frequent as to get in the way of the work and cause delays.
Unlike the waterfall process model wherein changes and adjustments are really difficult to make, the Scrum framework is widely used by many organisations because of its adaptability. Of course, adaptation is not possible without the first two pillars. It is only when the team practices transparent workflow and inspection can they figure out whether things have to be adjusted or changed. Adaptation is done as soon as possible to optimize the project outcome.
This is where the sprint review meeting comes very handy. During the review, the process is assessed against the sprint goals. The entire agile team and the stakeholders collaborate about what was done during the sprint, and the things to be done in the succeeding sprint in order to optimize the product value.
Apart from the sprint review, the Scrum framework features other events for inspection and adaptation:
- Sprint Planning
- Daily Scrum
- Sprint Retrospective
Now You Know Why Scrum Works!
Again, the Scrum methodology is an easy framework to understand as it is generally made up of a few roles, artifacts, events and rules. However, it can be difficult to master as it requires daily, continuous practice. To fully adopt this project management framework in your organisation, one of the first steps is to understand what lies on its foundation – the empirical process.
Empirical process, to summarise, is gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. In Scrum, empirical process has three underlying Agile principles: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
By keeping these three Scrum Pillars in mind in all your daily dealings, undertakings, meetings, and collaborations, you will certainly be able to master Scrum like many other well estalished teams did… in no time! You will also realise that Scrum is the fastest way for working because it has a favourable pattern, a structured programming, planning and meeting styles, and more importantly, an effective mechanism for tracking project progress.
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