Essential Scrum
Essential Scrum


This book discusses Essential Scrum—the things you have to know if you’re going to be successful when using Scrum to develop innovative products and services.

What Is Essential Scrum?

Scrum is based on a small set of core values, principles, and practices (collectively the Scrum framework). Organizations using Scrum should embrace the Scrum framework in its entirety, perhaps not through the entire organization all at once, but certainly within the initial teams that will use Scrum. Embracing all of Scrum does not mean, however, that organizations must implement Scrum according to some cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all formula. Rather, it means that organizations should always stay true to the Scrum framework while choosing an appropriate blend of approaches for their Scrum implementations.

Essential Scrum combines the values, principles, and practices of Scrum with a set of tried-and-true approaches that are consistent with, but not mandated by, the Scrum framework. Some of these approaches will be appropriate to your situation; others will not. Any approach will need to be inspected and adapted to your unique circumstances.

Origins of This Book

As an agile/Scrum coach and trainer, I am frequently asked for a reference book for Scrum—one that provides a comprehensive overview of the Scrum framework and also presents the most popular approaches for applying Scrum. Because I have been unable to find a single book that covers these topics at a level deep enough to be useful to today’s practitioners, I found myself recommending a collection of books: a few that discuss the Scrum framework but are out of date or incomplete; several highly regarded agile books that do not focus solely on Scrum; and a handful that are focused on a specific aspect of Scrum or a specific approach but do not cover the full Scrum framework in depth. That’s a lot of books for someone who just wants a single, stand-alone resource that covers the essentials of Scrum!

The originators of Scrum (Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber) do have a Scrum-specific publication called “The Scrum Guide.” This short document (about 15 pages) is described by its authors as the “definitive rule book of Scrum and the documentation of Scrum itself” (Schwaber and Sutherland 2011). They equate their document to the rules of the game of chess, “describing how the pieces move, how turns are taken, what is a win, and so on.” Although useful as a Scrum overview or rule book, “The Scrum Guide” is by design not intended to be a comprehensive source of essential Scrum knowledge. Extending the authors’ analogy, giving a new Scrum team just “The Scrum Guide” and expecting good results would be like giving a new chess player a 15-page description of the rules of chess and expecting her to be able to play a reasonable game of chess after reading it. It just isn’t a stand-alone resource.

This book, Essential Scrum, is an attempt to be the missing single source for essential Scrum knowledge. It includes an in-depth discussion of Scrum’s principles, values, and practices—one that in most cases agrees with other agile thought leaders and “The Scrum Guide.” (Where this book offers a different perspective from what is widely promoted elsewhere, I point it out and explain why.) This book also describes approaches that are consistent with the Scrum framework and that have been used successfully by me and teams I have coached. I did not intend for this book to replace other books that provide a deep vertical treatment of a given Scrum practice or approach. Such books are complementary to and extend this book. Rather, think of Essential Scrum as the starting point on the journey of using Scrum to delight customers.

Intended Audience

For the many thousands of people who have taken my Working on a Scrum Team, Certified ScrumMaster, and Certified Scrum Product Owner classes, and the many teams I have coached, this book will refresh and perhaps even clarify topics we have already discussed. And for the even larger number of people with whom I have not yet had the pleasure of working, this book will either be your first introduction to Scrum and agile or it will be a chance to look at Scrum in a different light and perhaps even improve how you perform Scrum.

I did not write this book for any one specific role—this is not a book specifically for product owners, or ScrumMasters, or members of the development team. Instead, it is a book intended to give everyone involved with Scrum, from all the members of the Scrum team to those with whom they interact in the organization, a common understanding of Scrum based on a core set of concepts with a clear vocabulary for discussing them. With this shared foundation my hope is that your organization will be in a better position to successfully use Scrum to deliver business value.

I imagine that every Scrum team member would have a copy of this book on her desk open to a chapter relevant to the work at hand. I also envision managers at all levels of the organization reading it to understand why Scrum can be an effective approach for managing work and to understand the type of organizational change that may be necessary to successfully implement Scrum. Organizations using or planning to use an agile approach other than Scrum will also find the information relevant and helpful to their specific agile adoption.

Organization of This Book

This book begins with a brief introduction to Scrum (Chapter 1) and concludes with a discussion of where you might go next (Chapter 23). The remaining chapters are organized into four parts:

How to Use This Book

As you would expect, I wrote the book assuming that most people would read it linearly from front to back. If you are new or newer to Scrum, you should take this approach because the chapters do tend to build on one another. That being said, if you are looking for one place to get an end-to-end overview of the Scrum framework (a highly visual Scrum primer), read and reference Chapter 2.

For those who are more familiar with Scrum, you can use this book as a Scrum reference guide. If you’re interested in sprint retrospectives, jump directly to Chapter 22. If you are interested in exploring the nuances of the product backlog, jump directly to Chapter 6. I highly recommend, however, that everyone, even those familiar with Scrum, read Chapter 3 in its entirety. The principles laid out there form the foundation of the Scrum framework and the rest of the book. It is not simply a restatement of the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto (Beck et al. 2001) that is common in many other written descriptions of Scrum.

Visual AGILExicon®

I am proud to include in this book the Visual AGILExicon® (pronounced “visual agile lexicon”), a language for describing and communicating core agile and Scrum concepts in a graphically rich and visually appealing manner. The Visual AGILExicon was used to create many of the more than 200 graphics in this book. This visual language is composed of a vocabulary of icons that have been designed to capture essential Scrum roles, artifacts, and activities. The Visual AGILExicon is an effective way to communicate concepts and improves the overall shared understandability of Scrum. If you are interested in obtaining and using the full-color images in the Visual AGILExicon (this book is printed in only two colors), visit for details. This website also hosts a variety of resources and discussions related to this book.

Let’s Get Started

So, whatever your role, whatever your situation, you have picked up this book for a reason. Spend a little time getting to know Scrum. In the pages that follow you just might find a powerful framework that you can make your own, allowing you to substantially improve the way you develop and deliver products and services to delight your customers.