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Scrum 101|Definition and characteristics of Scrum: its structure and roles within a team Business Skills

Jun 20, 2023 JIN

Scrum 101|Definition and characteristics of Scrum: its structure and roles within a team

As the pace of change accelerates in every industry, the complexity of business environments increases, and the number of software solutions developed continues to grow. Thus, software developers are increasingly adopting Agile development as an alternative to traditional waterfall development to respond more quickly to these changes.

Against this backdrop, there is a growing interest in “Scrum” and “Scrum Development,” one of the Agile development methodologies developed to deal with particularly complex and challenging problems.

This article will discuss and explain the latest Scrum Guide 2020.

What is the Scrum Guide?

To begin with, let’s explain what the Scrum Guide is in the first place. The Scrum Guide is the official guide to Scrum, written by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the fathers of Scrum.

The first version of the Scrum Guide was published in 2010 and has been continuously updated since then. Originally developed to address problems in software product development, the Scrum Guide was written to help people worldwide understand Scrum, as it has been adopted in a wide range of domains requiring complex work. The spread of Scrum has led to its use by developers and professionals in various fields, such as researchers and analysts.

The Scrum Guide is the most basic guide to understanding and using Scrum and can be called the “Bible in Scrum.”

What is Scrum and Scrum Development?

“Scrum is a lightweight framework for people, teams, and organizations to create value through adaptive solutions to solve complex problems.” With the increasing speed and complexity of change, it is becoming difficult to predict the future and plan appropriately in advance accurately. Even with such detailed planning in advance, assumptions and issues can change, so Scrum adopts adaptive solutions.

These solutions are called adaptive because they take the approach of incremental improvement through day-to-day team learning and experience instead of detailed planning in advance based on long-term expectations. Scrum also provides only a minimal framework instead of strict, detailed instructions. This includes Scrum values, structure (teams), roles, events, and deliverables, but no specific procedures or processes.

In a paper, The New Product Development Game, published in 1986 by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, the authors introduced a new product development method by Japanese manufacturers, comparing it to Rugby’s Scrum. Inspired by this paper, engineers Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland adopted and practiced this method in software development and developed it into a framework that became the basis of Scrum.

Scrum was initially conceived for software development and is one of the most well-known agile development methods in software development.

Scrum Features

One of the characteristics of Scrum is that it is based on “empiricism” and “lean thinking.” Empiricism is an attitude of thinking based on experience rather than theory, and the Scrum Guide states that “knowledge comes from experience and decision-making is based on observation. Scrum believes that knowledge gained through practice and experience is essential in dealing with increasing complexity and uncertainty.

Also, based on Lean thinking, we must focus on the essentials, eliminating wasteful activities that do not create value. Lean minimizes incompleted work, which leads to less waste.

In empiricist Scrum, Scrum works only when the following three pillars are realized:


It refers to a state in which processes and tasks, their status, and issues are visible within the team.
Ensuring transparency allows for inspection.


It refers to accurately assessing the current situation to detect changes, problems, and risks.
The inspection enables adaptations to be made.


It refers to correcting or improving processes or products when anomalies occur.
It is expected to react as quickly as possible based on the information obtained from the inspections, minimizing deviations and correcting them in the appropriate direction.

In other words, it is characterized by an incremental approach that maintains and strengthens the mutual understanding of all situations by the Scrum team members and by frequent inspections to detect problems early and correct them quickly.

Scrum Structure

The Scrum Guide defines the Scrum structure as follows.

The basic unit of Scrum is the Scrum Team, a small team of experts focused on a single objective (a product goal).
A Scrum team consists of one Scrum Master, one Product Owner, and several developers, usually less than ten people. Generally speaking, smaller teams are more productive, and this size is considered small enough to maintain agility yet large enough to complete the work.

Scrum teams are also said to be self-managed, meaning that they can make decisions within the Scrum team about who does what, when, and how, and they are empowered to manage the work within the team.

According to the Scrum Guide, team members should:

  • The group has all the skills and expertise needed to do the work and can share or learn these skills as required. The Scrum team is cross-functional and has all the necessary skills to create value in each sprint.
  • Scrum teams are cross-functional and have all the skills needed to create value in each sprint.
  • Respect each other as competent and independent individuals, and be respected by those you work with.
  • Scrum team members dare to do the right thing and tackle challenging problems.

It is best to view them as a model case of what a Scrum team should be like and use them as a reference for team composition, such as selecting members so that the team has the necessary skills to work or can share and learn them. In addition to the skills, the model also clearly outlines the attitudes that should be expected of team members so that the team can be strengthened by sharing values.

Roles within the Scrum team

The Scrum Guide defines three roles and responsibilities in a Scrum team: Developer, Product Owner, and Scrum Master.


First, Scrum uses the word “developer,” but it doesn’t necessarily refer to engineers. A “developer” in Scrum is defined as a person who creates a usable Increment (a deliverable that meets the definition of Done and is releasable). A developer in a Scrum team can be an engineer, a designer, or a writer.

Developers are said to have four responsibilities:

  • Create a plan for the Sprint (Sprint Backlog)
  • Build in quality by adhering to the definition of Done
  • Adapt the plan daily towards the Sprint goal
  • Take responsibility for each other as professionals
  • A sprint is a short-term (one month or less recommended) development and work process. Developers plan the work and deliverables to be done in a sprint and create deliverables that meet the definition of done.

While always maintaining transparency and visualizing the situation at work, we share the issues and what we have learned with the scrum team and revise and improve the plan daily.

Product Owner

The Product Owner is the owner of the product created by the Scrum team. As the person in charge, Product Owner is responsible for creating product goals and maximizing the product’s value. One of the most important responsibilities is to develop and manage a list of what is needed to improve the product, called the product backlog, based on the needs of customers and internal and external stakeholders.

Specifically, there are four responsibilities:

  • Develop and articulate Product Goals
  • Create and articulate Product Backlog items
  • Reorder Product Backlog items
  • Make the Product Backlog transparent, visible, and understandable

Scrum master

A Scrum Master is a role responsible for helping a Scrum team, or organization understand Scrum theory and practices, establish Scrum, and make it work effectively.

The difference between a Scrum master and a Project manager, which is often confused, is that the Project manager manages the entire project as the person in charge of the project, directs the team, makes plans, and makes decisions. In contrast, the Scrum master does not manage the Scrum team but supports the entire team, promotes the introduction and establishment of the Scrum framework, and maximizes the results of Scrum.

Scrum masters are expected to serve the organization as servant leaders rather than leading the organization themselves.

The Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done;
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and,
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events occur and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox.

The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:

  • Helping find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management;
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment; and,
  • Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed.

The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:

  • Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; and,
  • Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.

The Scrum Master should be a supportive leader, coaching team members to meet the definition of a Scrum Team (i.e., to approach the desired state). They also guide the organization and stakeholders to help them understand, implement, and practice Scrum.

In addition, the Scrum Master’s role is diverse, including assisting the Product Owner in his/her role of developing the product plan, defining goals, and managing the product backlog. Through these activities, the Scrum Master builds Scrum teams that continue to learn and improve autonomously, instills Scrum in the organization, and helps create an environment where new members involved understand and support Scrum. In this way, the Scrum Master plays a vital role in determining the success or failure of Scrum.

So far, we have introduced the definition and characteristics of Scrum, its structure, and its roles. The next article will discuss the Scrum event and how SHIFT ASIA practices Scrum to optimize our processes.


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