Scrum & Agile Blog

2020 Scrum Guide Change Summary

Scrum Guide Update 2020
We now have a new 2020 version of The Scrum Guide! This was released publicly on the 18th of November 2020 (US time) during an online event that celebrated 25 years since Scrum was presented in 1995. As a Scrum Alliance guide, I am in the privileged position of having had a preview of this for several weeks prior to public release. So, what has changed since the previous 2017 edition? Here’s a quick summary with analysis and what to watch out for to follow in a separate blog post.

The fundamentals remain

The Scrum framework has not changed in a fundamental way. There are still 5 Events, 3 Artefacts, 5 Values and 3 Roles, even though the last of these are not referred to as such (more on that below). There are however secondary elements that are new or have become more specifically defined such as “commitments” associated with each of the artefacts.

Even less prescriptive

The 2020 Scrum Guide is much less prescriptive about details. The number of pages of content tells much of the story here:
  • 2017 version: 17 pages
  • 2020 version: 10 pages
This page count excludes the “Purpose” and “End Note” sections as well as the table of contents. The 2020 Scrum Guide is 13 pages including those sections. The 2020 version says much less about the content of the events, the attributes of Product Backlog items, Sprint cancellation etc. Instead it describes purpose, characteristics and outcomes, leaving the rest to be customised to context through an empirical approach informed by the many good practice guides available elsewhere. The language has been subtantially simplified and the 2020 Scrum Guide omits remaining inferences to IT roles to make it more readily relatable to a wider audience.

Significant changes

  • “Roles” no longer used as a term: now accountability designations rather than “roles”.
  • No more Development Team: now just one team including “Developers” plus Product Owner and Scrum Master.
  • Beyond “self-organising”: the Scrum Team is “self-managing” rather than “self-organising”.
  • Clearer that Scrum Master is a leader: Scrum Master explicitly a “true leader” with an explicit overall accountability for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness.
  • “Why” topic added to Sprint Planning: Sprint Planning has 3 topics rather than 2 with the addition of Topic 1: Why focused on agreeing on a Sprint Goal.
  • Daily Scrum questions removed: the What did I do yesterday / today / impediment questions no longer appear.
  • Each artefact has a “commitment”: Product Goal for Product Backlog, Sprint Goal for Sprint Backlog and Definition of Done for Increment.
  • “Product Goal” commitment added: commitment is added.
  • “Product” is explicitly defined: as a vehicle to deliver value.
  • Multiple increments during a Sprint: increments come into being as Product Backlog items reach Done.
  • Only Done Product Backlog items shown in Sprint Review: whilst previously somewhat implicit, this is now explicit.
  • Product Backlog items not Done return to the Product Backlog: now also explicit.
  • Sprint Review not a gate to releasing value: explicitly debunks the misinterpretation that releasing must be coupled with Sprint Boundaries.

Minor changes

  • “Lean thinking” added as a foundation.
  • Multiple Scrum Teams focused on the same product now should share the same Product Owner.
  • Scrum is founded on “empiricism” rather than “empirical process control theory”.
  • It is explicit that the whole Scrum Team collaborates on the Sprint Goal.
  • Sustainable pace in Sprints now explicit.
  • Sprint Backlog contains “work items” rather than simply plan comprising “work”.
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Rowan Bunning
Certified Scrum Trainer and Organisational Simplification Consultant

Rowan Bunning is a globally recognised educator and management consultant in Agile product development.

Rowan has a technical background in various software development roles from 1997 - 2007. He began his Agile journey in 2001 with eXtreme Programming (XP). He is a pioneer of Scrum in Australia having become the country's first Scrum Master in 2003 and Australia’s first Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) in 2006. He was hired by the U.K.'s most prominent Agile consultancy in 2007 as an Agile Coach and became a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) in early 2008.

Rowan is one of the most experienced Agile trainers in the Asia-Pacific region. This includes leading over 500 Scrum certification training courses in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and the USA. In 2019 he became the first Path to CSP® Educator in the region - accredited to offer the full suite of professional development offerings for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches through to Certified Scrum Professional®.

Rowan has been engaged as a consultant by many of Australia’s best-known brands in industries including financial services, media, health insurance, marketplace, software product, digital agency, retail, manufacturing, building security, video gaming, state and federal government. He is currently most passionate about the professional development of capability leaders as well as guiding the organisational design choices and leadership behaviours required for competing at scale on the basis of agility and highest customer value.


  • Sunny Roy
    1 December 2020

    Hi Rowan, I have read a few articles on the updates to the Scrum Guide 2020 and your article comes with a crisp and clear snapshot. Awesome!

  • Greg Billington
    19 January 2021

    Useful summary thanks, I am quite a visual person so tried to summarise the changes on a single picture,
    thought may be worth sharing

  • faye
    7 March 2022

    Hi Rowan,

    I would like to ask you, what skill should a great scrum master possess? is it project management? or programme management? or none of this 2? thank you very much for your reply.

    your student

    • User Avatar
      Rowan Bunning
      26 January 2023

      Hi Faye, that’s a great question.

      In my experience, people new to the Scrum Master role tend to fall back into what they have done previously unless they make a real effort to get outside their comfort zone and learn new ways of thinking and new skills. The trap with having lots of project or program management skills is that the Scrum Master acts as a mini project manager. In that situation, they should be teaching and coaching the Product Owner (at the macro level across Sprints) and the Developers (at the micro level within Sprints) how to manage using some of these techniques.

      For most digital products, the Scrum Master would do really well to lead a transition away from projects wrapping Sprints to long-lived product development focused on measurable Product Goals rather than project-based scope and date commitments. To understand what that looks like and how to put it into action, the Certified Scrum Product Owner course is a great start.

      Overall, I believe that the most important skills for a Scrum Master are Systems Thinking for sustainable systemic improvement. We explore practical techniques for this as part of Certified Scrum Professional-ScrumMaster training. Also organisational problem solving skills to partner with other leaders to resolve the many impediments that hold teams back. We used structured techniques to make a compelling case for resolving impediments during our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) courses.

      I hope that this helps.


  • Joseph
    19 May 2022

    Thanks for consolidating the updates.

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