Agile vs Scrum: What’s the difference?

Agile vs Scrum
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Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. – by Sun Tzu

What will suit my organization better in agile vs scrum?

Which is better in agile methodology vs scrum?

How do I choose between agile and scrum methodology?

What is the difference between agile versus scrum?

Please list agile vs scrum difference.

Is there any difference in agile and scrum?

We get these questions a lot. We will address these and all variations of this question in this blog in a detailed and lucid way so as to make it easier for people with no prior introduction to agile or scrum to understand.

In the corporate world, organizations which attain sustainable competitive advantage and continuous growth always ensure to keep moving forward continuously towards the right direction. This ability is often denoted as the agility of business which embraces change, handles vulnerabilities, responds to uncertainty, revamp its processes continuously to manage complexities and keep on learning to address ambiguities. In essence, organizations which realize that reacting to change may provide instant gratification, comfort and protect the ego of senior leadership but it slowly yet surely tarnishes the possibilities of future sustenance. 

There is no option other than being responsive and if we get that imbibed in our organizational fabric then we may take one step forward towards being proactive. This aspect of bringing such traits is called agile transformation. It needs to be driven strategically and curated tactically. Here, one size does not fit all. Every organization is unique. If you are pondering why, there are five elements which can topple your agility growth plan – people, process, product, technology and customer. Balancing all the 5 elements is an art which could be possible only when we master the trait of strategic & tactical thinking with a fine balance. 

As agile consulting experts, we at Benzne have designed and led dozens of such agile transformations successfully yet we are still learning and each organizational context is a challenge for us where we brainstorm and strive to balance both the aspects.

We may view bringing agility in the overall system as strategic & implementing Scrum as one of the tactical approaches that could help us in bringing agility at a team level.

What is Agile?

Firstly, let’s be clear that agile is not a methodology. It’s a mindset. The mindset to not rush but to realize that ‘change’ has knocked at your door for a reason. A reason that might be affecting the stability of your work and may let you out of the very home that you call a ‘product team’, ‘program’, ‘portfolio’ or an organization as a whole. Agile mindset when inculcated across multiple levels from individuals, teams, business units & entire organization becomes culture. 

Agile is misinterpreted as methodology because of the multiple approaches, frameworks and practices that have popularized ‘agile’ ways of doing things and hence agile from a pursuit has ended up becoming a lipstick job. Some of the popular approaches include Scrum, Kanban, Lean, Extreme Programming, DSDM, RUP, AUP, SAFe, LeSS, Nexus and many more. 

Over the decades, one thing has been common across the organizations that have gone digital: that IT is an eminent part of their ongoing and future existence. IT is the fastest evolving industry where a technology within a couple of years gets obsolete and there is a continuous effort to upskill the workforce and upgrade complex systems that are running mammoth operations across various segments like healthcare, retail, manufacturing, ecommerce, entertainment and what not.

Let’s list some of the advantages, limitations of agile along with a quick note on how it works.

  • Advantages

Agile ways of working enables companies to provide the right value to their consumers ahead of the competition. Organizations which were monopolies once had to shut shops as they were resistant to change.

What are some of the most visible advantages of Agile?

  1. Customer gets what they want, relatively FASTER
  2. Innovation at lightning speed, EVERYWHERE
  3. Not just IT, it is applied ANYWHERE
  4. Releasing value ANYTIME
  5. Focus is more on learning culture, EVERYTIME
  • Limitations

With rapid development comes concerning issues. Quality is the most visible one which gets affected as the frameworks could be easy to apply and very tough to forfeit when organizations start seeing faster ROI. There may be a tendency to compromise with compliance, security standards, Infrastructure limitations, legal negligence and other aspects due to the rush. It is important to know that agile doesn’t mean only FAST. Things need to be done rightly also. Hence, it is important to set up the aesthetics of the foundation right. And not just that, it needs to be continuously monitored so that in a rush to pursue ‘agility’, we should not end up in a crash and lose everything.

  • How does it work?

Every organization, program, team has their own challenges and these challenges also change continuously. It is important to first listen, observe and understand what are the objectives that we want to achieve and what are the problems that we want to solve. We need to factor our constraints and then build our resolve to attain that. One approach could be to apply Scrum but it may not be helpful if it’s applied at a system where we are not building something, albeit the goal is to manage the continuous flow of work. The uncertainty could be so high that we do not know what is going to happen next, what work we may need to prioritize in the evening and absolutely no idea how our next day will start. In such cases, applying Kanban could help, not Scrum. 

The thumb rule is, know your customer first, understand your problems, look at the business viabilities, technological feasibility and other limitations to start in a small but impactful way. All this is done by conducting assessments to diagnose such areas of concern and importance. Then identify practical solutions or approaches or frameworks that can address them all. At times, we need to go hybrid because the goal is not to ‘implement agile practices’ or ‘perfect framework’ but to improve the endurance of our product or firm by bringing agility with just-in-time approaches. Agile implementation demands continuous training, coaching and monitoring the progress. Onboarding people, revisiting processes, revamping technology, embracing changing customer demands and improvising product/s.

What is Scrum in Agile?

Scrum is the most popular approach in the industry and also one of the most ineffectively applied approaches. Firstly, it is not an acronym and it is introduced as a framework while at the same time when we review teams who are already implementing it, we see that it has been understood as having new titles, list of artifacts and events/ceremonies which are run as meetings which are considered as sacrosanct rituals that nobody questions and are simply followed ritually!

Scrum was officially introduced to the world through Scrum Guide in 2010, authored by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. The definition of Scrum as mentioned in the guide is ‘Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.’

We have implemented Scrum in numerous teams as part of our enterprise agile transformation services and one thing is very clear to us, Scrum advocates empiricism and lean thinking. There are 4 Scrum Pillars to drive the agile mindset within each sprint (a timeboxed duration) which requires no further elaboration as they are self explanatory –

  • Transparency
  • Inspectation
  • Adaptation
  • Scrum Value

The Scrum values are Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect & Courage. The above philosophy assures that without a team becoming self-organizing, it will not be easy to bring agility. If you falter at any of the above, you are not going to maximize the outcome, instead you need to identify the elements that are still cultivating corruption and resistance which is a deterrent to your growth. The values give direction to the team. Hence, Scrum, when applied rightly, or let’s say, if the right environment is provided while implementing Scrum in its true form, it could bring required empiricism to identify the right direction for the team to move forward..

Let’s list some of the advantages, limitations of scrum along with a quick note on how it works.

  • Advantages
    • Lightweight structure enabling self-organizing trait: The scrum team has just 3 roles and the size is less than 10 people which is sufficient enough to avoid communication gaps
    • Habit formation & empiricism: Sprinting brings rhythm, one after another, each sprint help us in imbibing the 4 values of scrum
    • Just-enough plan: Sprint planning event helps in focusing on most important items to be worked upon instead of knowing the entire plan
    • Frequent validation: Sprint review helps us in failing or succeeding faster and enables continuous learning trait
    • Effective Team Collaboration: Daily scrum helps the team to quickly huddle every day to inspect the progress of sprint
    • Business & Scrum Team working together: The review & planning events help team in understanding the business benefits, client expectations and brings alignment
    • Continuous attention to quality and effectiveness: Sprint retrospective helps Scrum Team in identifying areas for improvement
  • Limitations
    • Scrum is primarily recommended for jobs that could be done by a small cross-functional team effectively. For big products, we may still need to rely on scaling frameworks
    • Any changes in the sprint goal shouldn’t happen during the sprint hence it would work best for the project where at least certain predictability is there like 1 or 2 weeks of work
    • Expectation is to create the valuable increment every sprint hence it is important that it need to be revisited for work environments where you are not creating incremental outcomes

Autonomy to scrum teams is very essential and aspiring such environment is utopian henceforth buy-in of leadership team is important

  • How does it work?

Let’s understand the Scrum first. It has-

  • Scrum Team has 3 roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Developers
  • 5 Scrum Events: The Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective
  • 3 Scrum Artifacts: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment

It all starts with the Product Owner identifying what all need to be added in the Product Backlog to achieve the Product Goal. This backlog is continuously managed by reprioritising, adding or removing items, rewording them and continuously showcasing the incremental outcomes developed by Developers at the offset of each sprint. The Product Goal is a guiding force for everyone in the scrum team to align with. 

Entire timeline is of back to back sprints of fixed duration. At the start of each sprint, in a sprint planning meeting the team comes together to plan for the next important value to be delivered through increments. Throughout the sprint, the developers work on building those increments. Developers own end to end aspects related to product like verification, maintenance, operation, experimentation, research and development and anything else required. At the offset of sprint, in sprint review, the increments are showcased to stakeholders to seek their feedback. While in the sprint retrospective, the scrum team finds the opportunity to improve to deliver the product effectively from the next sprint.

What is the difference between Agile vs Scrum?

To summarize the difference between agile versus scrum, here are the few pointers that will help – 

  • Agile is the pursuit which enables organizations with capabilities to survive in the VUCA world, while scrum is one such framework which is primarily meant for IT teams building software products who need to continuously align to product goals which may demand managing changing requirements and technology evolution.
  • Agile as an umbrella term has many approaches that could help organizations attain the traits of agility while scrum is one of such approaches
  • Agile is referred to mindset and Scrum is a framework to pursue that mindset

Are consulting firms helping to adopt agile?

As part of Benzne enterprise agile transformation services, our team of agile experts, help organizations to understand the symptoms, identify the problems, assess the current ways of working, know what is working well and what is not and then curate an agile transformation plan which includes finding the right balance between constraints related to people, process, product, technology and customers. 

Transformation is not immediate. It’s a gradual process where results take time to come while we have mastered the art of helping our customers with quantitative and qualitative way of measuring their health at levels of team, program, portfolio & overall business and continuously supporting them to shift towards the point where they could attain their objectives by realizing the critical key results. 

Agile can-not happen by just changing the mindset of one team. It needs an entire system to change and consulting firms could help in doing so by minimizing the blast radius.  

Transformation can-not happen just by training or workshops. It demands close collaboration and empowerment to both external consultants and internal teams to experiment, evolve and find the right balance. Perseverance is the key. The long lasting problems need time to cure but it’s definitely doable. 

Hope this blog was able to explain the difference between agile and scrum and cleared some of the misconceptions. Please reach out to us consult@benzne.com to know more about our agile transformation consulting services.

FAQ Questions:

1. Is Scrum actually Agile?

We often get such questions (along with what’s better in agile versus scrum or can you apply both agile and scrum methodology or do you prefer agile methodology vs scrum or please elaborate on agile scrum difference) and that itself shows the lack of clarity about Agile. Scrum is a framework designed to bring empiricism and helps in bringing agility in teams. Agile is just a pursuit of continuously moving towards the right direction which demands continuously improving and adapting to change. Scrum provides such an opportunity and it could be applied for certain types of projects. For other types there are different approaches that could be applied.

2. What are the 4 values of Agile?

As mentioned in agile manifesto, following are the 4 values –

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

3. What is the scrum life cycle?

<Please refer to the section ‘What is Scrum in Agile?’ section of this blog>

4. What is a scrum with an example?

Imagine you need to sell your product through instagram where there are already a lot of such B2C & B2B sellers. Your product goal is to become a go-to place for buying cool gym wear. Definitely, there is growing awareness towards fitness and people use ecommerce to do shopping. 

To implement Scrum, first we need to form the team:

  • We need a product owner who understands what it takes to achieve product goal
  • Bunch of developers who have capabilities to implement whatever is expected of them
  • A Scrum Master who will create an environment where the focus is continuously on fulfillment of product goal

Next we need to start sprinting. Sprint is a timeboxed duration. Book sprints timeline for couple of months ahead of time

  • Start iterating and incrementally create outcomes. Focus on leading and lagging indicators. Whatever is not working you may decommission and whatever is working you may evolve by pivoting your implementation. The whole goal is to be goal-focused and ensure that we maximize value through our implementation.

               Few increments could be:

  • Increment 1: Launching only t-shirts campaign for 18-25 years personas, who are superhero fans, both male and female, 6 variants max, free packaging & shipping
  • Increment 2: Launching bottom wear options, giving the facility to suggest designs, hire us for bulk customized orders
  • And many more till you reach your product goal.

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