A Look Back… The Birth and Evolution of Scrum

For those of you like myself who may not know, Scrum is an Agile software development methodology that is quite popular nowadays. However, do you know when it was started? Surprisingly, most people are unaware of Scrum’s age upon learning it. Scrum was first created by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the 1990s. That’s right, though it has only more recently gained steam within the industry as a best practice and desired development strategy.

The creators borrowed the rugby term “scrum,” which for the sport is used to define a restart in play after a minor infraction, to define the iterative process of sprints. Now why they chose a term from rugby rather than American football is anyone’s guess, but the term stuck and we all fondly know the methodology today as Scrum!

Japanese inspiration

Jeff Sutherland was a software engineer in the 1980s, yes they made software even that long ago. At the time, Jeff was inspired by a Japanese business man, namely an industrial engineer named Taiichi Ohno. Taiichi is viewed as the father of the Toyota Production System, or TPS for short. TPS later went on to become Lean Manufacturing in the US.

He was inspired specifically by the principles which Taiichi made the foundation of the TPS. Those principles are continuous improvement, respect for people, long-term philosophy, the right process will produce the right results, add value to the organization by developing your people and partners, and continuously solving root problems drives organizational learning. Sutherland adapted these principles to the software development industry and experimented with small teams working together in short iterative sprints.

A collaborative effort

After some time, Sutherland met Schwaber and the two worked together to formalize Scrum into a proper methodology. In 1995 the pair released a paper expressing the first official version of the Scrum Guide which outlined the guiding principles and practices of Scrum. Over the following years the duo worked together to refine the methodology based on their writings, experiences and known industry best practices. The most recent Scrum Guide was released in 2020.

Always improving

The first guiding principle that inspired them was that of continuous improvement, and Scrum has followed this to the letter. The methodology has undergone significant change since its inception in order to stay up-to-date and continue to be a leader in team working frameworks. Initially, it was primarily used for software development projects, but it has been adapted for other industries and applications. Scrum is also responsible for inspiring the creation of other Agile methodologies like Kanban and Lean.

Scrum’s key feature

The key feature that sets Scrum apart from the pack is its focus on collaboration and self-organizing teams. The teams consist of three vital parts: the product owner, scrum master and development team. All three of these parts work in tandem to reach the desired development goal(s) or outcome(s). The brilliance of Scrum is the clearly defined set of roles, events, artifacts, and rules to facilitate collaboration and deliver a working product increment at the end of each sprint. Following the principles will lead your team to continuously deliver value!

It is these keys features that has led Scrum to gain widespread adoption in the software development industry as well as other fields. That being said, it still has considerable ground to gain in order to fully supplant traditional, entrenched methodologies used today at larger corporations. Thousands of organizations worldwide have acknowledged and now actively use Scrum to improve their product development processes.

Looking to the future, perhaps the sky’s the limit for Scrum… time will tell. Scrum will continue to be an inspiration and even foundation for new methodologies. Ultimately, TPS gave birth to Scrum and in turn, it has created its own subset of methodologies so it’s possible that we will see an entirely new framework in the future. Teams continue to tweak and modify it to best suit their needs; therefore, perhaps it is only a matter of time before something new comes along. However, as a Scrum Master, I believe the foundation will continue well into the future as the guiding principles are not easily replaced.

Aditya Prakarsa
Aditya Prakarsa
Software Developer
Aditya has worked as a software developer for more than 10 years. He has also worked as a sales and marketing manager for more than 5 years. He joined Slash in 2021 as an Iteration Manager and has since been introduced to Agile. He has discovered the benefits and advantages of Agile in software delivery when compared to traditional software delivery or Waterfall. Working as an Iteration Manager has forced him to deep dive more into Agile and its frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, and XP.
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