Scrum: An Easy and Effective Analogy

DECEMBER 10, 2020  |   BY  Usman Aaron, CSM

When it comes to remembering Scrum as a framework, it can get complicated pretty quickly.

The aim of this article is to distill down the entire framework down in a pocket format way using an easy to understand acronym, MTBCO.


Science has proven that visualization strengthens memory and retrieval, therefore I would like to start this journey by picturing a mountain called (MT)BCO. 

The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step

M - Mindset

Before you begin any expedition whether it’s traversing a mountain or delivering a project (which is harder?) you always begin at basecamp. This pillar is the foundation and it’s where you prepare and make the intentions before you set off on your journey.


In Scrum, think of this as getting into the Agile Mindset.


Key: Understand the differences between an Agile vs. Waterfall mindset.

There are many articles which go into detail (Check out this article for a detailed look at the the differences between the Agile and Waterfall), but in summary:



  • Projects delivered according to the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) in sequential order, signed off on at milestones

  • Benefits: Clear requirements up front, defined project stages and clear roles and responsibilities
  • Cons: Inflexible, prone to errors and delays and delivering wrong products due to shifting requirements


  • Iterative, focus on delivering in increments with rapid feedback and testing

  • Benefits: Rapid feedback, constant communication, cross-functional team members collaborate to deliver a project in increments.

  • Cons: Challenging to provide definitive deployment date for entire project (As project is delivered incrementally), variable costs and mindset change requires effort to switch into.  

The first step is to make sure that you as a Scrum Master understand and embody the Agile mindset to be of service to your Scrum team.

T - Team


The second stage is understanding the people that make up a Scrum team.

Since Scrum is an iterative and collaborative framework, having the right team is paramount to the project's success.

In Scrum there are three core roles:

  • Product Owner:

    • Bridge between the client stakeholders and development team

    • "Owns" the Backlog (i.e Prioritizes top items to be completed)

  • Scrum Master:

    • Servant leader

    • Facilitator and enabler

    • Coach 

  • Development Team:

    • Technical lead

    • Developers

    • Subject Matter Experts (SME)

    • Testers and Quality Assurance

The beauty of a Scrum team is, each person is empowered and is part of an elite team. Thinking and treating each individual as a unique superstar encourages camaraderie and makes for a fun experience for all.


Scrum teams require team members that are cross-functional to be able to deliver on sprint objectives. 

When thinking of superhero teams, each valued member has  unique abilities.

As such, each team member is able to complete a specific task well (Ex. Developers, Testers), with respect to one another, but are also able to assist each other when needed. 


Trust is the key ingredient for holding a team together. A team must be confident and trust in one another’s ability to deliver on their roles and help one another when needed.

As with everything in life, people are the ultimate ingredient when it comes to success in any endeavour.

Being a friendly and personable Scrum master (and human) makes work and life much more enjoyable.


B - Building Blocks

Scrum as a framework, works because it has a series of defined process tools that provide the foundation of which to build with. I like to think of these process tools as 'blocks' which stack together to allow the process to work as a whole.


These blocks are:

  • Product Backlog: The backlog is a container or ordered list where all of the products requirements are held. Think of this as the container in which the entire project lives, but in its broken down form. Items in the backlog include User Stories, Tasks, Subtasks, Spikes and Bugs.
  • Sprint Backlog: A list of items taken from the backlog that will be worked on during the timeboxed Sprint. Sprints are typically completed in two-weeks, thus items in the Sprint Backlog must be achievable by measuring against the total number of story points (or level of effort) each item will take.
  • Epics: An Epic can be defined as a chunk of work that has common objectives. Ex. If building a house is the entire project, the Epics would be: Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom etc. These are buckets to define tasks that contribute to the overall Epic’s goal. An example in web development would be: Front end, back end, UI, Support etc.

  • User Stories: A tool to capture a description of a software feature (i.e a requirement) from an end-user perspective. Commonly written in the following format:

    • “As a <user>, I want to <Action> so that <result>.

    • Ex. As an online banking customer, I want to log into my account securely, so that I can view my current balance.

  • Story Points: An estimation metric, decided as a team, to measure the level of effort a specific User story will take. This is determined as a team but common estimation techniques include using the Fibonnaci sequence (1,3,5,8). 

  • Tasks: Actions that have clear objectives that can be met.

  • SpikesInvestigative measures such as finding out access requirements, to resources that can assist with the project.

  • Defects/Bugs: Errors that may arise in development that need to be addressed concurrently.

C - Ceremonies

This is where the building blocks are put into motion, working with one another to drive project progress.

There are five common ceremonies which are explained below:

  • Daily Standup: A daily touch-point for the team to check in with current Sprint progress and highlight any upcoming needs. This is the heartbeat of Scrum, allowing the team to work cohesively through open communication and collaboration.

    • Common questions that each member answer:

      • What I worked on yesterday

      • What I am working on today

      • Any blockers?

    • As a Scrum Master, it is your responsibility to facilitate open discussion and address blockers

    • Frequency: Daily

  • Sprint Planning: Done at the beginning of a Sprint to review the upcoming work being tackled in the next Sprint timebox. During this session, the Agile team reviews the User stories that have been loaded into the next Sprint Backlog. This is an opportunity for the team to understand each ticket being undertaken and clarify any information that still needs addressing.

    • Frequency: Bi-weekly

  • Backlog Refinement: The purpose of the backlog refinement is to ensure that prioritized items in the Product backlog are ready for the next sprint. This is an opportunity for the team to review items and ensure a smooth Sprint Planning session by making sure items are properly broken down in the upcoming Sprint Backlog. 

    • Frequency: Weekly

  • Sprint Demo: Done at the end of a Sprint and provides the entire Scrum team the opportunity to demonstrate the results from the Sprint period to the Product owner and relevant stakeholders. The team is looking for feedback before the next sprint starts and highlights findings from the Sprint period.

    • Frequency: Bi-weekly

  • Retrospectives: Closely following the Sprint Demo, Sprint Retrospectives allows the Agile team to review the previous Sprint and ask:

    • What went right?

    • What could have been done better?

      • The purpose of this is to celebrate the completion of the Sprint and look at the entire process as a team for improvements.

      • Frequency: Bi-weekly

O - Outcome

Congratulations on making it this far, you have summited the great mountain! This leads to the final section and peak of the analogy: Outcome


The outcome of using Scrum is having early feedback and iteration, where open communication between stakeholders is the glue that holds everything together. Benefits of following the Scrum process include early feedback, iterative building, early time to market and developing a potentially shippable product after each Sprint.


Whether it’s a web application, mobile app or any other type of project, Scrum can be used to build, step-by-step towards your desired outcome while discovering new things along the way.


As such, Scrum has become a powerful tool for organizations globally with companies all adopting Agile and Scrum specifically to power their projects.


Finally, it is very important to remember that at the end of the day, people are behind the success of every project.


Remembering the ‘human’ behind every person involved in a project and being empathetic to their unique characters will be rewarding to all both personally and professionally.


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Usman Aaron

IT professional with experience that spans across Virtual Reality, Retail and Digital Cloud and Transformation technologies. Passionate about empowering teams by unlocking the human potential in individuals to drive results.



Creating compassionate teams and effective results through empathy.



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