An Abridged History Of Scrum

Old Scrum DiagramI spend my working days helping companies effectively use scrum and other agile practices to create healthier working environments and increased business value. Today, I found myself reflecting on the path that led here. Below is an abbreviated timeline of events in the evolution of scrum. I’ve included a few bits of my journey with scrum as well.

An Abridged History Of Scrum

Winston Royce publishes “Managing The Development Of Large Software Systems.” This paper is often cited as the origin of waterfall development. While Royce describes what became known as waterfall, he argues against it in the paper. He actually advocates for a more iterative, two pass approach, instead of the single pass of waterfall.

Barry Boehm publishes the first version of “A Spiral Model of Software Development and Enhancement.” The Spiral model is iterative, though not necessarily incremental. It has a strong focus on risk reduction.

The Harvard Business Review publishes “The New New Product Development Game” by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. They advocate for an approach to product development that would increase speed and flexibility, based on case studies. They describe cross-functional teams working like a scrum in rugby.

The first OOPSLA conference is held. The OOPSLA community includes many of the people who become pioneers in the agile space.

The book Rapid Application Development is published by James Martin. Rapid Application Development emphasizes the importance of adaptation over advanced planning.

Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales, and Jeff McKenna create scrum and use it for the first time at Easel Corporation.

The DSDM Consortium is founded and the first version of the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) is published. DSDM fixes cost, quality and time. Scope is variable and prioritization is a key aspect of DSDM. DSDM is both iterative and incremental.

The first wiki, WikiWikiWeb is created by Ward Cunningham. Many agile pioneers use it to discuss and debate the various lightweight methodologies they are creating.

Even before this, many pioneers were actively discussing and debating their ideas on the usenet newsgroups, including comp.lang.smalltalk (many agile pioneers were part of the Smalltalk community) and comp.object. In 1995 Jeff Sutherland starts a thread titled “SCRUM and Why the Waterfall Methodology is a Fool’s Errand …,” in which 60 authors discuss and debate various practices that would eventually be called agile practices. An unedited archive of some posts from those groups is available here.

Jim Coplien publishes Pattern Languages of Program Design.

Kent Beck becomes the project leader of the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation (C3) system. Kent, Ron Jeffries, Ward Cunningham, and Martin Fowler create Extreme Programming (XP) while working on C3.

Ken Schwaber publishes “SCRUM Development Process” which describes scrum and emphasizes the importance of an empirical approach to software development.

Jeff De Luca creates Feature Driven Development, while working on a project for a large Singapore bank. This incremental approach builds one feature at a time.

Mike Beedle, Martine Devos, Yonat Sharon, Ken Schwaber, and Jeff Sutherland publish “SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development.”

The book Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck is published. When the second edition comes out in 2004, Cynthia Andres joins Kent as author.

Alistair Cockburn shares early descriptions of the Crystal Clear methodology on the WikiWikiWeb.

Feature Driven Development is described in Chapter 6 of the book Java Modeling in Color with UML.

The book Adaptive Software Development: A Collaborative Approach to Managing Complex Systems by Jim Highsmith is published.

Ron Jeffries, Ann Anderson, and Chet Hendrickson publish Extreme Programming Installed.

Chris Sims initiates the use of Extreme Programming at FactSet.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is created at a 3 day event at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort outside of Salt Lake City. The word ‘agile’ is chosen over ‘lightweight’ to describe the approaches practiced by the participants.

Agile Alliance forms.

The book Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle is published.

Chris Sims and his team release first version of FactSet’s APW product built using Extreme Programming.

The Scrum Alliance is created as a program of the Agile Alliance by Bryan Zarnett.

Lean software development movement gains momentum when Mary and Tom Poppendieck publish the book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit.

First Scrum Gathering held in Boulder, Colorado.
First European Scrum Gathering held in Vienna.

Alistair Cockburn publishes Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams.

Jeff Sutherland publishes the paper “Agile Development:
Lessons Learned From The First Scrum

The Scrum Alliance becomes it’s own for profit company, Scrum Alliance, Ltd., founded by Ken Schwaber and Mike Cohn.

The Boston Scrum Gathering happens.

The Scrum Alliance changes legal entities and becomes a non-profit.

Spring Scrum Gathering held in Portland, Oregon May 7-11.
Fall Scrum Gathering held in London, Nov 12-16.

Chris Sims starts Agile Learning Labs and presents agile sessions at Silicon Valley Code Camp.

Chris Sims among others, present sessions at the Chicago Scrum Gathering.

Agile Learning Labs offers their first public workshops.

A pre-release proof of Scrum Guide is distributed at the 2009 Scrum Gathering in Orlando. Chris Sims and Ainsley Nies facilitate the Open Space at this gathering. The proceedings are still available.

The first official version of Scrum Guide is published by Scrum Alliance.

Chris Sims and Jeff McKenna teach certified scrum master workshops together.

David Anderson publishes Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.

The Scrum Guide is updated in July.
The Scrum Guide is updated again in October.

Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson publish The Elements Of Scrum.

Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson publish Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction.

The Scrum Guide is updated.

Devon Morris becomes the first black CST.

The Scrum Guide is updated.

The Scrum Guide is updated. A partial history of revisions to the Scrum Guide is published.

The Scrum Guide is updated, as is the revision history.

Further Reading


It’s been a fascinating journey. Those of us practicing scrum today stand on the shoulders of the giants who blazed the trail to now. I’m sure I’ve left out important events and people. Despite best efforts, I may have dates or other details incorrect. Please fill in the missing bits by leaving comments or sending me a message.


Chris Sims

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