Scrum Guide 2020 Update: Key Changes And Their Impact On Development Teams

Scrum Guide 2020 Update: Key Changes And Their Impact On Development Teams

・9 min read
Scrum Guide 2020 Update: Key Changes And Their Impact On Development Teams

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Scrum Master is someone your projects need. His/her role is to serve as a coach to your team to lead them through the development process smoothly and without unnecessary distractions. If you wish to dive deeper into the topic, make sure to visit the post Why Do You Need A Scrum Master? A Report from the Battlefield. As a business owner, it is crucial to stay up-to-date with the operating rules and notions within the scrum methodology even if you are not currently employing a Scrum Master. Knowing the updated guidelines can help you become an even better leader with the most effective team of people.

On November 18 2020, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland published an update of the Scrum Guide. I was very excited about that because every new version makes it more clear what this methodology is really about and how it can help you achieve your project and business goals.

In this brief article, I would like to share with you the key changes in the 2020 Scrum Guide and make them easier to understand for a future reference.

What will you learn after reading this article?

  • What motivated Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland to update the Scrum Guide in 2020, and what are the key changes they introduced?
  • How does the 2020 Scrum Guide's approach to the roles within a Scrum team differ from its predecessors?
  • The significance of introducing the concept of a Product Goal in the 2020 Scrum Guide?
  • How does the updated Scrum Guide ensure that each Sprint contributes towards the overarching Product Goal?
  • What are the removed elements from the Scrum Guide, and why were they considered unnecessary?
  • How does the 2020 Scrum Guide facilitate a more team-focused approach to achieving project goals?

First Things First. The origin of the Scrum Guide

The Scrum Guide is developed and maintained by the founders of Scrum themselves, since the day it was first published 25 years ago - Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. It contains a clear definition of the methodology, descriptions of the roles, events and artifacts as well as the rules that bind them together.

Thanks to the contributions from the community, specialists and founding fathers many updates have been introduced to make the Guide even more clear and transparent.

The Scrum Guide has been translated to over 30 languages and can be read and downloaded from the official website. If you are familiar with the 2017 version you may be surprised how different the recent version is. The structure of the Guide has changed and the prescriptive language and practices have been removed in order to create a more lightweight and easy to comprehend framework. However, Scrum is still Scrum and this is what is most important.

Want to learn more about Key Changes of Scrum Guide 2020?

2017 vs 2020 Scrum Guide

So what exactly has changed? How is the 2020 Guide different from its predecessor? Let’s dive deeper.

Even less prescriptive

The latest version reduces prescriptiveness, evident in the removal of the three Daily Scrum Questions and modifications to the Sprint Backlog and Sprint Cancellation sections. These changes aim to streamline the framework, focusing on flexibility and team collaboration.

More team focused

The 2020 Guide emphasises a unified team effort towards a common goal, shifting from individual roles to collective accountabilities for the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers. This approach seeks to dismantle barriers within agile teams, promoting seamless cooperation.

Simpler language

The new Scrum Guide eliminated complex statements, redundancy and removed any inference to the IT (eg. testing, designing, requirements etc.). This made it available for a much wider audience since, thanks to those simplifications, it has now less than 13 pages.

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What was removed from the Guide?

In order to simplify the Guide further and make it reflect the framework as lightweight, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland have removed some unnecessary content, as follows:

  • The typical three questions for the Daily Scrum;
  • Meeting after the Daily Scrum for detailed discussions;
  • The use of an organization’s “Definition of Done”;
  • Progress monitoring methods towards the goal in Product Backlog;
  • The prescriptive elements of the Sprint Review;
  • The details on the outcomes defined in the purpose of the Sprint Retrospective;
  • The exact percentage of the capacity of the team for the Refinement session.

Scrum is still Scrum in Agile Project Management

Removing all the above elements from the Guide does not mean that these ideas are no longer relevant. They are and still can be used, in your situation. For example, always having at least one process improvement item from the retrospective, however, it is no longer viewed as ‘mandatory’. This makes the latest version more usable for a wider audience without forcing anything that may not be applicable for their team or organization.

We have to remember that Scrum is still Scrum and the core principles of Empiricism, Inspection and Adaptation remain at its heart. The changes were driven by the desire to more explicitly support its usage not only in the IT but also in other industries, as well as in response to comments and suggestions by the community of Scrum users.

Scrum masters and other team member

The key changes

Product goal introduction

The updated version introduces the concept of a Product Goal to direct focus of the teams towards a larger valuable objective. It means that each and every Sprint should bring the product closer to the overall goal. One of the more challenging aspects of Product Management is to create a tangible relationship between the work and the business strategy. Product Goals are an often overlooked mechanism that can help you in this area.

More Sprint Planning questions

The emphasis was also placed on the Sprint Planning section. In addition to the questions of ‘what’ and ‘how’ the 2020 Guide focuses on the third one - ‘why’. It refers to the Sprint Goal, as Scrum treats every Sprint as an investment (since we put time and money into it). It is important to have a vision of this investment and in order to answer those questions, we create the Goal.

Commitments to artifacts

With the addition of the Product Goal, we also get more clarity around the identity of Sprint Goal and the Definition of Done treating them as artifacts. As of now, each of those contains commitments to them

  • Product Backlog
    • Product Goal
  • Sprint Backlog
    • Sprint Goal
  • Increment
    • the Definition of Done

These provide a nice, structured way to describe some of the key characteristics of each artifact and bring more transparency and focus to their progress.

The 2020 Scrum Guide describes a commitment as:

Each artifact contains a commitment to ensure it provides information that enhances transparency and focus against which progress can be measured.

Self-managing instead of a self-organizing Scrum Team

Previous versions of the Guide referred to Development Teams as self-organizing, so they could choose who did the particular work and how to do that. ow, it was replaced by Scrum Teams and self-managing is described as:

They are also self-managing, meaning they internally decide who does what, when, and how.

Other references include how the Scrum Master should support the self-managed team and the relationship with the Scrum Goal.

Now, the focus is more on the Team, which has become not only self-organizing but also self-managing. The team members can choose who, how and what to work on. Self-management empowers the team members and encourages them to do whatever is required to deliver a valuable increment.

Roles to accountabilities

In the newest release, the term role was replaced with accountabilities. The purpose of this change was to put special emphasis on the fact that is not a job description but rather the minimum set of responsibilities necessary to implement Scrum successfully. These accountabilities are split into 3 groups:

  • Scrum Master
  • Product Owner
  • Developer

The new accountability is a term Developer, based on the Development Team role described in the previous version of the Guide. This change of terminology, however, does not change the Scrum framework as the roles were always shown as a set of particular accountabilities. Removal of those roles simplifies the Guide and reduces the confusion around the view that a role is a job title as well as provides some additional context.


In the Scrum Guide, the foundation of the framework is described. It is not a prescriptive methodology since you need the flexibility to learn, experiment and evolve. The Guide describes the bare minimum that allows teams to work on complex tasks and gives them a common language and foundation.

The 2020 release makes it more inclusive, shorter and even clearer. It presents the pure essence of Scrum to ensure that it is easy to understand and adapt.

Being aware of the modifications introduced and implementing them into your daily practice will definitely bring amazing results and success to your teams and future projects.

I am excited about the changes and the opportunity to remind people that the Scrum Guide only states what is required for Scrum and this way I would like to encourage discussion and learning.

As Scrum Guide says:

Scrum is built upon by the collective intelligence of the people using it. Rather than provide people with detailed instructions, the rules of Scrum Guide their relationships and interactions.

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