The Biggest Change to the 2020 Scrum Guide Is What Isn’t There

A team meets during a daily scrum.By: Dave Pradko

“What did I do yesterday?”

“What am I going to do today?”

“Are there any impediments to my work?”

For close to two decades, teams practicing the Scrum software development methodology have been asking and answering these questions every morning. At the same time every day, every team member comes together in the daily standup to review progress and impediments to their work on the Sprint, or current set of promised development items (i.e., Sprint Backlog).

Recently, though, Scrum Guide author Ken Schwaber and others updated the Scrum Guide, eliminating these three questions. The Scrum Guide describes the Scrum framework developed by Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and others from the mid-80s to the mid-2000s. While the guide has been updated several times since it was originally published in 2009, it has always contained a version of the 3 Questions for the Daily Scrum (3 Questions) – until this latest version.

What is the Daily Scrum/Daily Standup?

So, what is a Daily Scrum/Daily Standup? From the latest version of the Scrum Guide:

“The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work.

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute event for the Developers of the Scrum Team. To reduce complexity, it is held at the same time and place every working day of the Sprint. If the Product Owner or Scrum Master are actively working on items in the Sprint Backlog, they participate as Developers.”

Why the Change?

Each of the 3 Questions was meant to be about progress, plans, and impediments to the Sprint Goal, which is the purpose of the work that the team has committed to for that Sprint. Unfortunately, many teams have gotten used to the shortened 3 Questions that omit the part about the Sprint Goal. Whether through inexperience, an incomplete adoption of Scrum practices, or other reasons, the 3 Questions morphed into individual status updates.

Removing the 3 Questions accomplishes a few things:

  • Helps the team focus on the Sprint Goal;
  • Reduces focus on individual statuses; and
  • Encourages paired programming and mobbing activities to accomplish the Sprint Goal.

Focusing on the Sprint Goal instead of the user stories in the Sprint Backlog is important because the Sprint Goal serves as the value statement or reference point for the work done during the Sprint. This means that during the Sprint, the team may discover that some work no longer helps meet the Sprint Goal, or that some work item needs to be built differently. By having the Daily Scrum focus on the Sprint Goal instead of individual work items, the team is better able to deliver the value that the product owner and the team have identified.

In summary, one of the goals of the updated Scrum Guide is addition by subtraction: removing confusing and misused elements and attempting to better highlight the parts of Scrum that make teams more successful.