Project Management

Yesterday, Scrum was such an easy game to play

From the Scrumptious Blog
Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

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Well it's not quite that bad. Scrum has come a long way since Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber decided to shake up the software development world by creating a framework for making products faster, better, smarter and for lower cost, even if it was named after a bunch of sweaty men huddled together with ill intent for the other side.

The Scrum framework as we know it today kicked off in the mid 1990's when they both presented their paper at the OOPSLA conference. But it may interest you to know that it was almost a decade earlier when Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka first coined the term "Scrum" in relation to product development. This revelation came after their study of successful manufacturing firms where they noticed that the winning formula was cross-functional teams iterating during overlapping phases.

Scrum made its way into many organizations over the next 15 years, but it wasn't until 2010 that Jeff Sutherland and Jeff Schwaber finally laid down the framework in a semi-official form we know today as The Scrum Guide. There have been five versions of the guide released since 2010, with the latest being in November 2017.

Scrum has since evolved into a powerhouse for delivering successful Agile projects. But is there any quantifiable data to support its widespread adoption? There certainly is. The "State of Scrum 2017-2018 - Scaling and Agile Transformation" produced by the Scrum Alliance gives us some great insights into the game of Scrum and how it is played today.

Before we look at this data, it's important to know that the information was captured through 91 countries, 27 industries, and over 2000 respondents. 78% of the respondents were in the USA and Europe, while only 10% were located in Asia. Given that Asia represents 58% of the world's population, and is the fastest growing economic region and will be for at least the next decade or so, the Scrum Alliance may want to increase their respondent representation in this region for future reports.

How many use Scrum?
94% of respondents use Scrum in their Agile practices. This is broken down into two main areas. While only 16% use Scrum exclusively, 78% use a mixture of Scrum with other approaches such as XP and Kanban.

What about Team Size?
We all know that a good Scrum Team should be small and flexible. Most people believe that aside from the Product Owner and Scrum Master, the development team should consist of between 5-9 members. The report confirms this, and the average Scrum team size was 7.4. Of the 2000 respondents, 8% had team sizes between 1-4 members. 78% had 5-9 members, while 13% had 10+ members.

Sprint number and length
The average length of a Sprint was 2.4 weeks which sounds about right. An interesting thing I noticed was that the average number of Sprints per project was only 5. This could be that a lot of projects were feature updates or a small list of features regarded as a single project, rather than a huge release. This could also be disguised as a Release or Product Roadmap broken down into small "projects". If we multiply the average Sprint length (2.4) by the average number of Sprints per project (5.0), we get a 12-week average duration for Sprint projects. This was indeed confirmed in the 11.6 weeks reported in the State of Scrum.

Scrum Events
81% of respondents held a Retrospective after the Sprint. This seems high at first glance, but when you really think about it, it's really not acceptable that almost 20% of Scrum teams don't even hold a Retrospective. The whole idea of Agile and Scrum is to Inspect and Adapt, and particularly with processes and team performance, this is hard to do if the team isn't meeting for a Retrospective.

87% have a daily Scrum. Now this is where I start to grind my teeth. Is this a Scrum Master issue, or a team just not committed to Scrum? Similarly, only 86% hold a Sprint Planning meeting before a Sprint. I wonder what these teams were thinking when they head into a Sprint with no formal plan for the next iteration. We respect adaptive planning in Scrum, but progressive elaboration does not mean we can enter the current iteration without knowing what we will do and how we will do it. The Definition of Done and our Sprint Goal is a form of planning, so what the heck was going on in their minds?

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If your Scrum projects are not half the Scrum they use to be, it is time to buckle down and look at the processes you are deploying and if they follow the Scrum Guide's framework, all the way down to the roles, rules, events and artifacts that deliver value to the stakeholders. Make sure your Scrum projects are implemented in the best way possible now and tomorrow. Don't long for yesterday!

1. Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2017) The Scrum Guide. Available from:
2. Scrum Alliance (2017) State of Scrum 2017-2018 - Scaling and Agile Transformation.
3. Wikipedia (2018) Scrum (Software Development). Available from:

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
Sante Vergini Signature



Posted on: March 13, 2018 10:33 PM | Permalink

Comments (16)

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Sante, thank you for this article. Yes, nowdays Scrum has been succesfully applied in a variety of industries other than software development, and it has demonstrated to be a powerful and effective framework for complex products. Thanks again !!

Thanks for sharing the statistics, Sante! It would be interesting to know how many organizations are using 100% of what's in the Scrum Guide vs. taking liberties with core values, principles, artifacts, roles & ceremonies.


Thanks, Sante. Since its a framework, teams/organizations apply practices within they deem warranted. As you pointed out, there are core-elements to the framework that must apply - interesting to see (not surprised), some are not adhered to.

Thanks Guillermo, Kiron and Andrew.

Guillermo, I agree. It will interesting to see how it evolves over the next 5 years and if it remains the dominant approach.

Kiron, that would be interesting. I suspect the majority take some liberties.

Andrew, I wonder if a line was drawn in the sand by the Scrum Guide authors that stated when it was Scrum and when it wasn't. Meaning there must be varying degrees where Scrum is watered down to a point where it is not Scrum anymore.


My line would include,

Team - SM, PO, Dev Team
Activities - Sprint Planning, Sprint, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, daily Scrum
Principles - timeboxxed events, empiricism, inspect and adapt, value delivery each sprint.

That's a good line in the sand Andrew. I assume you also mean the artifacts that come out of these events. Don't forget the dark chocolate. We need to get the Scrum creators to add that one in.

^ Dark Chocolate, of course.

Good Stuff Sante ... Thanks for the statistics. I like the title, thats creative

Thanks Rami. Can't go wrong with The Beatles.

Thank you Sante for sharing the numbers.
Although as we become competent in area we start to modify it to suite needs of project/ environment/ culture which is acceptable but than there are certain changes we make just to ease ourselves, denying the basic principles or thinking that we can just skip a part (event/ ceremony) because it is understood and not really required. That is the point we make the mistake. Not holding daily scrum or scrum planning meeting or retrospective certainly degrade the resulting outcomes of project.

Valid points Najam, thanks.

Good article, Sante and thanks for sharing the statistics.
I'm wondering why only 10% of respondents from Asia.

Thank Anish, that was my thought too. Probably since they are located in the USA, they felt it was easier. But in today's world of remote collaboration tools, there really is no excuse not to increase the Asian participation distribution in future surveys.

Hi Sante
Thanks for sharing these very interesting findings.

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