Scrum – A Pocket Guide - Gunther Verheyen - ebook

This pocket guide is the one book to read for everyone who wants to learn about Scrum. The book covers all roles, rules and the main principles underpinning Scrum, and is based on the Scrum Guide Edition 2013. A broader context to this fundamental description of Scrum is given by describing the past and the future of Scrum. The author, Gunther Verheyen, has created a concise, yet complete and passionate reference about Scrum. The book demonstrates his core view that Scrum is about a journey, a journey of discovery and fun. He designed the book to be a helpful guide on that journey. Ken Schwaber, Scrum co-creator says that this book currently is the best available description of Scrum around. The book combines some rare characteristics: • It describes Scrum in its entirety, yet places it in a broader context (of past and future). • The author focuses on the subject, Scrum, in a way that it truly supports the reader. The book has a language and style in line with the philosophy of Scrum. • The book shows the playfulness of Scrum. David Starr and Ralph Jocham, Professional Scrum trainers and early agile adopters, say that this is the ultimate book to be advised as follow-up book to the students they teach Scrum to and to teams and managers of organizations that they coach Scrum to.

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Scrum – A Pocket Guide


A smart travel companion


Best Practice


Gunther Verheyen


Ken Schwaber (Scrum co-creator,


David Starr (Agile Craftsman, Microsoft)


Ralph Jocham (Agile Professional, effective agile)


Patricia Kong (Director of Partners,



Text editor:

Steve Newton


Van Haren Publishing, Zaltbommel,

ISBN hard copy:

978 90 8753 720 3

ISBN eBook:

978 90 8753 980 1


First edition, first impression, October 2013



Layout and typesetting:

CO2 Premedia, Amersfoort – NL


© Van Haren Publishing, 2013

For any further enquiries about Van Haren Publishing, please send an e-mail to: [email protected]

Although this publication has been composed with most care, neither Author nor Editor nor Publisher can accept any liability for damage caused by possible errors and/or incompleteness in this publication.

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by print, photo print, microfilm or any other means without written permission by the Publisher.

Foreword by Ken Schwaber

An outstanding accomplishment that simmers with intelligence.

Scrum – A Pocket Guide is an extraordinarily competent book. Gunther has described everything about Scrum in well-formed, clearly written descriptions that flow with insight, understanding, and perception. Yet, you are never struck by these attributes. You simply benefit from them, later thinking, “That was really, really helpful. I found what I needed to know, readily understood what I wanted, and wasn’t bothered by irrelevancies.”

I have struggled to write this foreword. I feel the foreword should be as well-written as the book it describes. In this case, that is hard. Read Gunther’s book. Read it in part, or read it in whole. You will be satisfied.

Scrum is simple, but complete and competent in addressing complex problems. Gunther’s pocket guide is complete and competent in addressing understanding a simple framework for addressing complex problems, Scrum.

Ken, August 2013


The use of Agile methods continues to grow traction and Scrum is the most widely adopted method for Agile software development. The general level of interest in Scrum is therefore considerable.

Transforming an organization’s development approach to Scrum represents quite a challenge. Scrum is not a cookbook ‘process’ with detailed and exhaustive prescriptions for every imaginable situation. Scrum is a framework of principles, roles and rules that thrive on the people doing Scrum. The true potential of Scrum lies in the discovery and emergence of practices, tools and techniques and in optimizing them for each organization’s specific context. Scrum is very much about behavior, much more than it is about process.

The benefits an organization realizes with Scrum depend on the will to remove barriers, think across boxes and embark on a journey of discovery.

The journey starts by playing Scrum. This requires knowledge of the rules of Scrum. This book describes these. This book shows how Scrum implements the Agile mindset, what the rules of the game of Scrum are, and how these rules leave room for a variety of tactics to play the game. The introduction of all essentials of Scrum and the most common tactics for Scrum makes this book a worthwhile read for people, teams, managers and change agents, whether they are already doing Scrum or want to embark on the journey of Scrum.

Ten years ago I started my journey, my path of Agility via Scrum. It has inevitably been a cobblestone path. On my journey I have used Scrum with plenty of teams, in various projects, and at different organizations. I have worked with both large and small enterprises and have coached teams as well as executive management. I was in the fortunate position of then moving to It’s where I shepherd the ‘Professional’ series of Scrum trainings, courseware and assessments.

I thank Ken Schwaber, David Starr, Ralph Jocham, and Patricia Kong for reviewing early versions of this book and improving it with much appreciated feedback.

I thank all at Van Haren Publishing for their trust and confidence, and for giving me the chance to express my views on Scrum with this book.

I thank my colleagues at for our daily collaboration, the positive action and the energy, and especially Ken Schwaber for our exquisite partnership.

Enjoy reading, and... keep Scrumming.

Gunther, June 2013


This Scrum Pocket Guide is outstanding. It is well organized, well written, and the content is excellent. This should be the de facto standard handout for all looking for a complete, yet clear overview of Scrum.

(Ken Schwaber, Scrum co-creator,

Gunther has expertly packaged the right no-nonsense guidance for teams seeking agility, without a drop of hyperbole. This is the book about agility with Scrum I wish I had written.

(David Starr, Agile Craftsman, Microsoft)

During my many Scrum training activities I often get asked: “For Scrum, what is the one book to read?” In the past the answer wasn’t straight forward, but now it is! The Scrum Pocket Guide is the one book to read when starting with Scrum. It is a concise, yet complete and passionate reference about Scrum.

(Ralph Jocham, Agile Professional, effective agile.)

‘The house of Scrum is a warm house. It’s a house where people are WELCOME.’ Gunther’s passion for Scrum and its players is evident in his work and in each chapter of this book. He explains the Agile paradigm, lays out the Scrum framework and then discusses the ‘future state of Scrum.’ Intimately, in about 100 pages.

(Patricia M. Kong, Director of Partners,



1.1   To shift or not to shift

1.2   The origins of Agile

1.3   Definition of Agile

1.4   The iterative-incremental continuum

1.5   Agility can’t be planned

1.6   Combining Agile and Lean

2     SCRUM

2.1   The house of Scrum

2.2   Scrum, what’s in a name?

2.3   Is that a gorilla I see over there?

2.4   Framework, not methodology

2.5   Playing the game

2.6   Core principles of Scrum

2.7   The Scrum values


3.1   Visualizing progress

3.2   The Daily Scrum questions

3.3   Product Backlog refinement

3.4   User Stories

3.5   Planning Poker

3.6   Sprint length

3.7   Scaling Scrum


4.1   Yes, we do Scrum. And...

4.2   The power of the possible product

4.3   The upstream adoption of Scrum

Annex A: Scrum vocabulary

Annex B: References

About the author


The software industry was for a long time dominated by a paradigm of industrial views and beliefs (figure 1.1). This was in fact a copy-paste of old manufacturing routines and theories. An essential element in this landscape of knowledge, views and practices was the Taylorist1 conviction that ‘workers’ can’t be trusted to undertake intelligent and creative work. They are expected to only carry out executable tasks. Therefore their work must be prepared, designed and planned by more senior staff. Furthermore, hierarchical supervisors must still vigilantly oversee the execution of these carefully prepared tasks. Quality is assured by admitting the good and rejecting the bad batches of outputs. Monetary rewards are used to stimulate desired behavior. Unwanted behavior is punished. It’s like carrots and sticks.

Figure 1.1 The industrial paradigm

The serious flaws of this paradigm in software development are known and well documented. In particular, the Chaos reports of the Standish Group have over and over again revealed the low success rates of traditional software development. The latest of these reports is dated 2011 (Standish, 2011). Many shortcomings and errors resulting from the application of the industrial paradigm in software development are well beyond reasonable levels of tolerance. The unfortunate response seems to have been to lower the expectations. It was accepted that only 10-20% of software projects would be successful. Success in the industrial paradigm is made up of the combination of on time, within budget and including all scope. Although these criteria for success can be disputed, it is the paradigm’s promise. It became accepted that quality is low, and that over 50% of features of traditionally delivered software applications are never used (Standish, 2002).

Although it is not widely and consciously admitted, the industrial paradigm did put the software industry in a serious crisis. Many tried to overcome this crisis by fortifying the industrial approach. More plans were created, more phases scheduled, more designs made, more work was done upfront, hoping for the actual work to be undertaken to be executed more effectively. The exhaustiveness of the upfront work was increased. The core idea remained that the ‘workers’ needed to be directed with even more detailed instructions. Supervision was increased and intensified.

And still, little improved. Many flaws, defects and low quality had to be tolerated.

It took some time, but inevitably new ideas and insights started forming following the observation of the significant anomalies of the industrial paradigm. The seeds of a new world view were already sown in the 1990’s. But it was in 2001 that these resulted in the formal naming of ‘Agile’, a turning-point in the history of software development. A new paradigm for the software industry was born (figure 1.2); a paradigm that thrives upon heuristics and creativity, and restoring the respect for the creative nature of the work and the intelligence of the ‘workers’ in software development.

Figure 1.2 The Agile paradigm

The software industry has good reasons to move fast to the new paradigm; the existing flaws are significant, widely known and the presence of software in society grows exponentially, making it a critical aspect of our modern world. However, by definition, a shift to a new paradigm takes time. And the old paradigm seems to have deep roots. An industrial approach to software development even continues to be taught and promoted as the most appropriate one.

Many say that Agile is too radical and they, therefore, propagate a gradual introduction of Agile practices into the existing, traditional process. However, there is reason to be very skeptical about a gradual evolution, a slow progression from the old to the new paradigm, from waterfall to Agile.

The chances are quite high that a gradual evolution will never go beyond the surface, will not do more than just scratch that surface. New names will be installed, new terms and new practices will be imposed, but the fundamental thinking and behavior of people and organizations will remain the same. Essential flaws will remain untouched; especially the disrespect for people that will lead to the continued treatment of creative, intelligent people as mindless ‘workers’.

The preservation of the traditional foundation will keep existing data, metrics and standards in place, and the new paradigm will be measured against these old standards. Different paradigms by their nature consist of fundamentally different concepts and ideas, often even mutually exclusive. In general, no meaningful comparison between the industrial and the Agile paradigms is possible. It requires the honesty to accept the serious flaws of the old ways, and for leadership and entrepreneurship to embrace the new ways, thereby abandoning the old thinking.

A gradual shift is factually a status-quo situation that keeps the industrial paradigm intact.

There is overwhelming evidence that the old paradigm doesn’t work. But much of the evidence on Agile was anecdotal, personal or relatively minor. The Chaos report of 2011 by the Standish Group marks a turning point. Extensive research was done in comparing traditional projects with projects that used Agile methods. The report shows that an Agile approach to software development results in a much higher yield, even against the old expectations that software must be delivered on time, on budget and with all the promised scope. The report shows that the Agile projects were three times as successful, and there were three times fewer failed Agile projects compared with traditional projects. It is clear that against the right set of expectations, with a focus on active customer collaboration and frequent delivery of value, the new paradigm would be performing even better.

Yet, Agile is a choice, not a must. It is one way to improve the software industry. Research shows it is more successful.

The distinct rules of Scrum help in getting a grip on the new paradigm. The small set of prescriptions, as described in the following chapter, allows immediate action and results in a more fruitful absorption of the new paradigm. Scrum is a tangible way to adopt the Agile paradigm. Via Scrum, people do develop new ways of working; through discovery, experimentation-based learning and collaboration. They enter this new state of being, this state of agility; a state of constant change, evolution and improvement.

Nevertheless, despite its practicality, experience shows that adopting Scrum often represents a giant leap. This may be because of uncertainty, letting go of old certainties even if they prove not to be very reliable. It may be because of the time that it takes to make a substantial shift. It may be because of the determination and hard work that is required.


Despite the domination of the plan-driven, industrial views, an evolutionary approach to software development is not new. Craig Larman has extensively described the historical predecessors of Agile in his book ‘Agile & Iterative Development, A Manager’s Guide’ (Larman, 2004).