The words Scrum and Agile are often used interchangeably and yet, they’re quite different. Here’s a short article that explains the difference.
Which Came First – Scrum or Agile?
I ran a poll on LinkedIn recently. I asked readers which came first: Scrum or Agile? At time of writing there have been over 7,000 views of the poll and the results are very close with 51% saying Scrum and 49% saying Agile. This result may help explain why the difference between agile and scrum confuses some people. Let me explain.
A Little History
Don’t worry. This will be short. But it explains the creation of the agile manifesto and adds a little colour to this article.
The computing landscape in the 1980’s was a free-for-all. It was frontier country. Most of us were learning the craft of programming on computers like the Sinclair ZX-81, Sinclair Spectrum, BBC B, Acorn Atom, Vic-20, Commodore-64 to name a few! Fun and discovery are the words that best explain my own experience.
In the 1990’s, everything became more professional. Fun was no longer de-rigeur. Now it was estimates and deadlines. Worst of all, we were trying to plan software delivery using traditional project planning. It didn’t work. It spawned the phrase ‘death march’ which beautifully captures the feeling at the time.
Fortunately, the world of computer software has some extraordinarily gifted and intelligent people. They bent their minds to the problem and designed new ways of managing software projects. The 1990’s saw the emergence of these new approaches, which included:
- Crystal methodology
- Extreme Programming
- Feature Driven Development
- Pragmatic Programming
- Adaptive Software Development
These new approaches offered an escape from the vicissitudes of project planning.
Meeting of the Minds
The something even more wonderful happened. Rather than all-out methodology wars, the creators of these light methodologies came together and discussed and agreed what they had in common. The result was the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
The Agile Timeline
The image below is from my CSM course and shows the timeline for light methodologies and the agile manifesto. We can see that the agile manifesto was informed by all of the light methodologies that preceded it. Light methodologies came first. The agile manifesto was last.
What is the Difference Between Scrum and Agile
Scrum is an approach that conforms with the contents of the Scrum Guide. Agile is an approach in conformance with the Agile Manifesto. That’s quite a mouthful so sometimes, I like to phrase it like this:
Scrum is agile. But agile isn’t necessarily Scrum
Scrum, and the other light methodologies created during the 1990’s, were the catalysts for the creation of the agile manifesto.
The light methodologies came first, then came the agile manifesto.
Scrum might be thought of as a subset of agile, or a flavour of agility.