The Purpose of this Guide

The Scrum guide speciously claims it is based on Lean thinking. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The lack of Lean theory and practices in Scrum is one of the main reasons so many teams struggle with Scrum. Scrum is based on values and principles. A set of first principles, to explain why Scrum works, however, is missing. First principles are principles that can’t be decomposed into other principles but stand on their own. They should apply universally or, at a minimum, state the context in which they apply. An example of a first principle is that delays in workflow, in feedback, and in learning cause waste. This guide presents the foundation of Lean thinking and how it can be applied to Scrum.

The lack of first principles is the underlying reason for Scrum’s requirement to be immutable. Scrum is both defined and constrained by its being a framework. However, this has two side effects. The first is that when teams are attempting to find a solution to an impediment, they verify that the proposed solution is consistent with the Scrum Guide. This, unfortunately, may eliminate practices that would be more suited to the team than which are consistent with the guide. The second challenge is that Scrum being purposely incomplete often leaves the team both unprepared to find a solution and to understand if it’d be better than what they are doing.

The result is that some teams tend to have a myopic focus on the Scrum Guide instead of using a thought process that could guide their way.

What Lean Provides

In addition to some key principles and guidance, Lean provides:

  • Insights on the value stream – the workflow from when an idea of value for a customer is created until it is delivered to and consumed by the customer
  • A focus on small batches, even to the extent that planning ahead is not required
  • Continuous learning
  • Attending to the system the team finds itself in. While Scrum is focused on the team, the team is greatly impacted by the rest of the organization.

This guide also contains a few key concepts inspired by Lean. In particular, we’ll learn about the Minimum Business Increment, a more useful artifact to describe what’s needed for the next value to be released than epics or features are. We’ll also introduce the factors for effective value streams which is used to indicate the expected efficacy of a change to how work is done.

The Intended Audience for this Guide

This guide is intended for ScrumMasters who want to understand why Scrum works when it does and what to do when going beyond Scrum is necessary. All other roles that want to learn more about how teams can work more effectively will also get value.

About the Author

Al Shalloway is the co-author of 6 books ranging from technical to process at scale. He was an early XP and Scrum practitioner. In 2007 he asserted that Scrum practitioners would benefit from thinking of Scrum as a partial implementation of Lean. He has used this insight over the last 15 years to provide guidance to teams using Scrum to both improve their methods at the team level and to bring Agile to organizations at scale. In 2007 Mr. Shalloway created a multi-team Agile approach he now refers to as BLAST (Basic Lean-Agile Solutions Team) that could be considered to be a Lean version of Nexus, although it predates it.  Mr. Shalloway co-created Lean-Kanban University (no longer affiliated) and was the first SPCT outside of SAI (no longer affiliated). In the two years Mr. Shalloway was at the PMI he created the Disiplined Agile Value Stream Consultant workshop.

Preface to the Amplio Scrum Master Guide

Scrum was originally designed for autonomous, cross-functional teams, creating a new product. It was presumed that they either have or can readily acquire, the skills to do so. Scrum can be effective in this situation. However, Scrum is being used in many situations that don’t fit that description. Many companies started with Scrum at the team and are trying to have the teams work together effectively. Unfortunately, Scrum provides little guidance here and the mere fact that teams must work together means the teams are not autonomous.

The world we find ourselves in is very different from when Scrum was created. We need to take advantage of what we’ve learned. Scrum is essentially the same as it was when the Agile Manifesto was created 20+ years ago.

More Than Theory and Additional Practices Are Provided

This guide is a subset of Amplio Development: The Path to Effective Lean-Agile teams, which is online and free. This provides additional insights and theory for the reader. It also contains a section on being a professional coach, which includes several chapters on both useful coaching insights and how to convey particular concepts to people. Only those sections marked with ASG in the section title are required for reading.

Readers of this guide are encouraged to join the Amplio Community of Practice which provides several Miro collaboration boards as well as sessions on selected topics of interest and a collection of podcasts and videos that are useful to Agilists.

The differences between Amplio Scrum and Scrum Guide in bulleted form

Scrum is attractive because it’s a simple framework. Using it as a starting point is often good. When more is needed Amplio Scrum can provide that. The first principles identified in Amplio both explain why Scrum works when it does, and how to modify it when appropriate.


Amplio ScrumScrum Guide Scrum
Based on Flow, Lean-thinking, and Theory of Constraints and practices consistent with them. These principles provide guidance to verify if the team is working properly.Based on empirical process control and complex adaptive systems. No first principles are provided. Provides no guidance on whether what the team is doing is consistent with first principles.
Uses the factors for effective value stream to provide guidance on whether a change to practice will be an improvementScrum suggests trying “safe to fail experiments” to see if something will be an improvement.
Can use flow or timeboxing.Uses timeboxing.
Several techniques for managing work in process.Uses timeboxing to manage WIP at a high level.
Provides alternatives value creation structures than cross-functional teams that are often required for the reality of the situation.Mandates cross-functional teams which are ideal when the situation allows.
Is a set of patterns so teams can decide how to implement what needs to happenIs a framework with the core practices being immutable
Intelligently incomplete. Allows for a tailored quick start and continued learning. Provides for new practices to be introduced as needed.Intentionally incomplete so can get an easy, quick start.
Includes advanced product management artifacts such as MVPs and MBIsPurposefully incomplete and does not provide these virtually universally useful concepts.
Works within the context the team finds themselves in.Designed for autonomous, cross-functional teams creating a new product.
Provides methods to help manage work in process.Requires practitioners to figure out how to manage work in process.
Includes coaching tips to help convey core principles to management. Alignment achieved through mutual understanding of principles.Does not include any coaching tips to convey any concepts. Alignment achieved by following Scrum.
Provides core concepts at the start and provides references to more as needed.A small set of concepts to start with. Practitioners are expected to figure out the rest.
Includes almost 2 dozen virtual collaboration boards to facilitate team and asynchronous communication.Doesn’t provide any virtual collaboration boards.
Provides insights in how to do development work efficiently.Leaves how to be efficient to the developers.
Prepares multiple teams to work together at small to medium scale.Is team-centric and provides little insights to expand to multiple teams.
Uses PDSA or OODA lops to “inspect and adopt” and improve model of understanding.Limited to “inspect and adapt”
Double-loop learning on both the way the team is working and on Amplio Scrum itself.Double-loop learning on how the team is working (Scrum itself is immutable).
Uses a continuous learning model.Uses an iterative learning model.

The Rest of the Amplio Scrum Master Guide

The Amplio Scrum Master Guide itself is a combination of a subset of the Amplio Development: The Path to Effective Lean-Agile Teams and the Scrum Guide Itself. By improving the foundation on which Scrum is based Amplio Scrum removes immutability and avoids teams from having to reinvent key concepts.

Amplio Development includes a section on “Being a Professional Coach” which is highly recommended reading as mentioned earlier. Although the book is not particularly long, only about half of the non-coaching part is required reading for Amplio Scrum. The book therefore includes annotations for what’s required reading. Each section that is part of the Amplio Scrum Guide is marked with ASG in the title. The entire section under the title should be read. 

You can navigate through the guide for the ASG markings by 1) searching for them, 2) looking at the table of contents, 3) bring up the contents pane on the left side of the PDF.

If you want to learn more about the need for removing the immutability of Scrum and why we need to substitute a few Scrum practices at time, it is suggested to start with the section titled “Making Scrum Lean”.

The Amplio Scrum Guide is designed to take advantage of what you already know about Scrum. The core of that is the Scrum Guide.

Getting Assistance with the Guide

Please ask questions on the Amplio Community of Practice LinkedIn user group.

Or better yet, join the Amplio Community of Practice for more learning opportunities about Amplio Scrum and other Agile methods.


Latest Event or Presentation

The Amplio Challenges Board can be used for identifying challenges, exploring how to eliminate challenges, seeing what’s in your way from doing so, and identifying any action items you take.

Watch Now >>

Upcoming Events

The Amplio Community of Practice (Free)

Learn More >>

Latest Learning Journey

The Amplio Development Masterclass

More Info >>

Amplio Consultant Educators

More Info >>