Agile is a concept. Scrum is a framework.

Cory Angell
7 min readMar 13, 2023

Agile and Scrum are often used interchangeably in business settings, but the reality is Agile and Scrum are two related but distinct concepts in the business world. It’s important to understand the difference between these two terms to better understand the values and principles of Agile and how to apply them in different contexts. Agile is a philosophy, Scrum is a framework for implementing Agile concepts. Agile emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction, but does not define the specific processes a team uses to practice the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. Scrum and other Agile frameworks define specific roles, meetings, and practices used to manage the development process using Agile principles.

Understanding the difference between Agile and Scrum can help teams select the most appropriate methodology or framework for their specific needs. For example, if a team needs a structured approach to software development that includes clear roles and responsibilities, Scrum is a good choice. If a team values flexibility and adaptability, they may choose to use Scrumban or Lean instead.

Agile is a Concept

Agile is a broad concept that can apply to a variety of software development practices, including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Lean. It emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and adaptability, and focuses on delivering value to customers quickly and continuously.

Scrum is a Methodology

Scrum is a specific methodology or framework that is based on a set of roles, events, and artifacts. It’s designed to help teams work together more effectively and deliver value to customers more efficiently. Scrum is just one of the many Agile methodologies used to implement Agile values and practices. While Scrum is based on Agile principles, it is important to note that not all Agile methodologies and frameworks follow Scrum practices.

Artifacts

Scrum includes several artifacts designed to provide visibility and transparency to the team’s progress and help them plan and execute their work more effectively. They serve as a foundation for collaboration and decision-making among the Scrum Team and stakeholders. These artifacts include the Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increment.

  • Product Backlog: The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of features or requirements for the product. It is the single source of truth for the product, and it is owned by the Product Owner. The Product Backlog evolves constantly based on feedback from stakeholders and changes in business requirements.
  • Sprint Backlog: The Sprint Backlog is a subset of the items from the Product Backlog the Development Team has committed to completing during the upcoming sprint. The Scrum team creates the Sprint Backlog during Sprint Planning and updates it throughout the sprint as they complete the work.
  • Increment: The Increment is the sum of all the completed Product Backlog items at the end of each sprint. The Increment must be in a releasable state. It must meet the Definition of Done and be usable by the end users. The Increment is the primary measure of progress in Scrum, and the basis for the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.

Scrum Roles

There are three essential roles in a Scrum team: the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the Development Team. Each role has specific responsibilities for ensuring that the team works effectively and delivering value to customers.

  • Product Owner: The Product Owner defines and prioritizes the product backlog. The Product Owner works with stakeholders and the development team to ensure the product backlog is up-to-date and reflects the needs of the customers and the business. The Product Owner also provides guidance to the development team during the sprint and accepts or rejects the completed work.
  • Scrum Master: The Scrum Master ensures the team follows and understands the Scrum framework. The Scrum Master facilitates Scrum events, such as sprint planning, daily scrums, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives. The Scrum Master helps to remove any impediments blocking the team’s progress and promotes a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Development Team: The Development Team delivers a potentially releasable increment of the product at the end of each sprint. They are self-organizing and cross-functional, and handle all aspects of software development, including analysis, design, coding, testing, and documentation. The Development Team works together to plan and execute the sprint, and is accountable for delivering the sprint goal. The Development Team size is typically between three and nine members, but may vary based on the needs of the product.

Events or Ceremonies

Scrum includes several events designed to promote communication, collaboration, transparency, and continuous improvement. These events include Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

  • Sprint Planning: This is a time-boxed event immediately before the start of each sprint where the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate to create a plan for the upcoming sprint. The purpose of the Sprint Planning is to define the Sprint Goal, select the items from the Product Backlog to include in the Sprint Backlog, and create a plan for how to complete the items.
  • Daily Scrum: This time-boxed event occurs every day during the sprint. The purpose of the Daily Scrum is for the Development Team to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal, discuss any impediments that are blocking progress, and plan the work for the next 24 hours.
  • Sprint Review: This event occurs at the end of each sprint where the Development Team presents the completed work to the stakeholders. The purpose of the review is to receive feedback and collaborate with stakeholders to make a decision on the next steps.
  • Sprint Retrospective: This event takes place at the end of each sprint and provides the team time to reflect on the past sprint and identify ways to improve the process. The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to identify what went well, what didn’t go well, and what they can do differently in the future.

The Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto is a foundational document outlining the values and principles of the Agile methodology. A group of software development practitioners assembled in 2001 to discuss their shared beliefs about how to approach software development. The Agile Manifesto resulted from that discussion and is based on four key values and twelve principles:

The four values of the Agile Manifesto are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

There is value in the items on the right, we value the [bold] items on the left more.

The twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto are:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The Agile Manifesto has influenced many areas of business and management. It provides a foundation for a flexible, customer-focused approach to work that values collaboration, continuous improvement, and responsiveness to change.

Key Concepts for Adopting an Agile Mindset

The key difference between Agile and Scrum is Agile is a philosophy or approach to software development. Agile values and principles are foundational to a variety of practices, while Scrum is a specific methodology that implements Agile practices in a structured framework. Adopting an Agile mindset is an important step for teams adopting Scrum. Below are a few of the key concepts of an Agile mindset.

  • Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery: Practices that emphasize frequent testing and deployment of software in order to catch and fix issues quickly and deliver new features to customers more frequently.
  • Iterative and Incremental Development: Agile development is based on iterative and incremental development, which means work is done in short cycles or iterations, with each iteration delivering a small, usable piece of functionality. This allows the team to receive feedback and adjust their approach as needed, which can lead to higher quality and greater customer satisfaction.
  • Customer Involvement: Agile development emphasizes the importance of customer involvement throughout the development process. This includes working closely with customers to understand their needs and priorities, and involving them in the feedback and review process.
  • Empowered Teams: Agile teams are self-organizing and cross-functional, with members from different disciplines working together to achieve a common goal. They are empowered to make decisions and are responsible for delivering high-quality work.
  • Continuous Improvement: Agile development is based on continuous improvement, with teams constantly reviewing and adjusting their processes to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Prioritization and Adaptability: Agile development prioritizes features and tasks based on customer needs and business value, and adapts to changing requirements and market conditions. This requires a flexible and adaptive approach to development.
  • Transparency: Agile development emphasizes transparency and visibility, with team members sharing progress and status updates with each other and stakeholders.

The Takeaway

Highlighting the difference between Agile and Scrum is important in any organization. They are two distinct ideas. Agile is a philosophy. Scrum is a methodology based on Agile principles. Scrum defines specific roles, meetings, and practices to manage the development process using Agile principles. Agile provides an outline of core values and principles to empower teams and create adaptability to evolving business priorities. Adopting an Agile methodology like Scrum is not about getting more done in less time, it’s about empowering teams to prioritize the right things to do at the right time based on analysis and feedback.

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Cory Angell
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Agile, Product Management, Marketing, Technology. Dreamer, Doer, Believer in the power of self. https://coryangell.com https://www.twitter.com/coryangell