A framework for the iterative development of complex products, particularly software. Scrum is the most widely recognized Agile framework, and is compatible with other Agile practices like Extreme Programming and Test Driven Development.

Scrum is comprised of a series of short iterations–called sprints in Scrum–each of which ends with the delivery of an increment of working software. The framework is further characterized by a set of roles (ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Team), time-boxed ceremonies (Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning Meeting, Sprint Review and Retrospective), and artifacts (burn down charts, product backlog). Usage: We’ve chosen to develop our new product using Scrum.
A “scrum” or “daily scrum” is a 15 minute-long status meeting, one of the ceremonies of Scrum. Usage: Floyd, the new project manager, was invited to observe our daily scrum.
Tip: You will sometimes hear the term Scrum used interchangeably with the term Agile, but this is incorrect. Agile is not a framework, but a broader set of values and practices, while Scrum is a specific framework that fits comfortably under the Agile umbrella.

According to the Scrum Alliance, Scrum is capitalized. You will occasionally see it in all caps (SCRUM);  this is incorrect, as Scrum is a word, not an acronym.


The term “Scrum,” as it is commonly applied to software development, began its life as a sports metaphor. The term “Scrum” derives from the game of Rugby, where it refers to a team that moves down the field as one body.  Scrum was first introduced as a metaphor for industrial processes in 1986 by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, two Japanese academics who used it to describe a new, flexible approach in a paper titled “The New Product Development Game.”

In the early 90’s, several complimentary events conspired to bring the term “Scrum” into use within Agile development community. In 1991 Peter DeGrace and Leslie Hulet Stahl published a book called “Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions: A Catalog of Modern Engineering Paradigms,” which contained a blistering critique of the commonly accepted “waterfall” method for software development. DeGrace and Hulet Stahl quoted Takeuchi and Nonaka’s paper as a possible remedy.  Influenced by this popular work, a team of software developers, Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna, used the term Scrum to describe a new framework they had begun to develop in accordance with the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto. In parallel, Ken Schwaber was developing a similar framework at his company, Advanced Development Methods.

The two teams were aware of each other’s work, and in 1995, Schwaber and Sutherland jointly authored a paper that laid out the basics of a framework they dubbed Scrum. Schwaber later collaborated with Mike Beedle on Agile Software Development with Scrum, which is widely accepted as the definitive text. Schwaber went on to found the Scrum Alliance, which is now the certifying body for Scrum trainers and practitioners of all levels, and the primary source of authoritative information on the state of Scrum as practiced today.

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4 Responses to Scrum

  1. Derek says:

    I think there’s a key word missing in the 3rd paragraph, so I’ve copied it below with the missing word capitalized:

    According to the Scrum Alliance, Scrum is NOT capitalized. You will occasionally see it in all caps (SCRUM); this is incorrect, as Scrum is a word, not an acronym.

    • Laura says:

      For clarity, I might have written it as below:

      According to the Scrum Alliance, Scrum is a proper noun and therefore capitalized. You will occasionally see it in all caps (SCRUM); this is incorrect, as Scrum is a word, not an acronym.

      • Chris Sims says:

        Our thinking on this is evolving. When this entry in the dictionary was created, we chose to capitalize Scrum. Later, when we wrote The Elements Of Scrum we decided that scrum should not be capitalized. The analogy we used was sports. There are specific sports, such as baseball and hockey. Baseball and hockey are not proper nouns and should not be capitalized. Scrum isn’t trademarked, so we saw it as an agile framework in the same way that baseball is a sport.

        David Morris wrote an article that makes a good case for not capitalizing the parts of Scrum, but for capitalizing the word Scrum.

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