Agile vs Scrum – find out differences between them

Natalia Plewniok
January 14, 2024
Agile and Scrum are two fundamental terms that often surface in discussions about project management methodologies. Agile represents a set of values and principles that focus on flexibility, customer satisfaction, and collaboration. It encompasses an attitude or approach aligned with these values and can manifest through various methods and practices. On the other hand, Scrum is a framework under the Agile methods umbrella that emphasises iterative progress and accountability. Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that "Agile" and "Scrum" are used interchangeably, leading to confusion regarding their true nature and application. This article delineates the differences and clarifies each term's distinct applications and principles.

Understanding the Basics

To understand the concepts more clearly, let’s start with the basics. Agile is an approach to project management, product development, and service delivery focusing on flexibility, collaboration, customer satisfaction, and delivering value. It is not a specific methodology but a set of values and principles to improve productivity and address customers’ needs more effectively.

In contrast, Scrum is a specific framework under the Agile umbrella. It implements the Agile values and principles by providing a structured environment for complex problem solving, allowing for quick adjustments based on regular feedback. Scrum is recognised for its emphasis on creating a collaborative environment where teams can address and resolve issues promptly.

Agile & Scrum – comprehensive overview

Agile emphasises adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continual improvement, encouraging rapid and flexible responses to change. The Agile Manifesto, which was created by 17 software practitioners in 2001, consists of twelve principles and four fundamental values: individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan.

As a subset of Agile, Scrum is a framework that employs specific accountabilities, events, and artefacts to uphold Agile values and principles. The key roles in Scrum include the Product Owner, who is responsible for maximising the value of the product; the Scrum Master, who ensures that the team follows Scrum practices and principles; and the Developers, who do the work of delivering potentially shippable increments of the product at the end of each Sprint.

A Sprint in Scrum is a time-boxed period, no longer than a calendar month (and typically two weeks long), during which a usable and potentially releasable product increment is created. Sprints commence with Sprint Planning and conclude with a Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, allowing for continuous improvement and adaptation throughout the development process.

Through its systematic approach, Scrum makes the development process transparent, inspectable, and adaptable, helping organisations address complex adaptive problems while delivering high-value products. This iterative and incremental approach ensures that feedback is continually incorporated, risk is managed effectively, and the returned product aligns closely with customer needs and expectations.

While Agile serves as a philosophical foundation providing broad guidelines on project management and product development, Scrum offers a specific set of practices and rules that operationalise the Agile mindset, providing a concrete and disciplined approach to development.

Agile vs Scrum: The Core Difference

Delving deeper, it is essential to discern the core difference between Agile and Scrum. Agile is the overarching philosophy encompassing various frameworks, methods, and practices, each with unique characteristics and applications. It is a collection of values and principles focusing on adaptability and customer satisfaction, guiding the approach to product and service development.

Conversely, Scrum is a distinct, structured framework, a practical implementation of Agile principles, known for its iterative and incremental processes that facilitate timely deliveries and continuous improvement. It’s crucial to understand that while Scrum done right is Agile, not every Agile implementation is Scrum; other methods like Kanban and eXtreme Programming also adhere to Agile principles.

Grasping this distinction is critical for those pursuing Scrum certification or exploring other Agile methods, ensuring accurate application of suitable practices in various project contexts. It sets a clear pathway for those eager to delve deeper into Agile frameworks and methods, providing clarity and direction in their professional endeavours.

Digging Deeper: Principles and Practices

To further elucidate, let’s explore the underlying principles and practices of Agile and Scrum. Agile values emphasise individuals and interactions over processes and tools, valuing working software over comprehensive documentation. The focus is squarely on customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. These are the cornerstone of the Agile approach, driving adaptability and continuous improvement in product and service development.

Conversely, Scrum is more prescriptive, entailing specific practices and roles, such as Sprints, which are time-boxed iterations to deliver increments of shippable products. The framework outlines roles like the Scrum Master, who facilitates the team’s progress, and the Product Owner, responsible for the Product Backlog and prioritising tasks. Daily Scrum and Sprint Backlog are additional practices that reinforce planning, communication, and organisation within the team.

Understanding these principles and practices is instrumental in effectively applying Agile and the Scrum framework, contributing to accomplishing project objectives and organisational goals.

Scrum vs Agile: Common Misconceptions

It is common to witness the terms "Scrum" and "Agile" being used interchangeably, a misconception that needs addressing to avoid misunderstanding and improper implementation. Here are some points that clarify the misconceptions and explain why such confusion is prevalent:

  • Interchangeable Use – Many people use Scrum and Agile synonymously due to the popularity of Scrum as an Agile framework. However, this interchangeable use is incorrect. Agile is the overarching set of principles and values, whereas Scrum is a specific implementation of those principles.
  • Scrum’s Popularity – The widespread adoption and success of Scrum often overshadow other Agile frameworks, leading to the presumption that Scrum and Agile are synonymous. It’s crucial to remember that while Scrum is a popular framework within the Agile framework, it is not the only one; other methods like Kanban embody Agile principles.
  • Overlapping Principles – The principles of Scrum, such as collaboration and flexibility, are inherently Agile, reinforcing the misconception that Scrum and Agile are the same. However, it’s imperative to understand that Scrum represents a structured approach with defined roles and practices, applying Agile principles in a specific manner.

By addressing these common misconceptions, individuals pursuing Scrum Master certification or those interested in Agile ways of working can gain a more transparent, more accurate understanding of their distinct applications and implications. A clear distinction is crucial to appropriately apply and benefit from each method in various project environments.

Comparing Scrum with Other Agile Methods

When venturing beyond Scrum, one encounters other Agile methods like Kanban and eXtreme Programming (XP), each with unique aspects and applications. Here’s a brief overview comparing Scrum with these :

  • Scrum – Characterised by fixed-length Sprints, Scrum values structured processes, clear roles such as Scrum Master and Product Owner, and regular feedback and adjustment.
  • Kanban – Distinguished by its focus on continuous delivery and flow, Kanban emphasises visualising work, limiting work in progress, and managing flow, allowing for more flexibility in planning compared to Scrum.
  • XP (eXtreme Programming) – This method prioritises customer satisfaction and enables the delivery of high-quality software through practices like continuous feedback, pair programming, and test-driven development (TDD).

Scrum's structured approach, commitment to regular iterations, and clearly defined roles make Scrum unique, allowing for constant review and adaptation of the product and the working process. It is crucial for aspirants pursuing Scrum or Kanban certification to comprehend these differences to make informed decisions on the appropriate methods to employ based on their project needs.


In conclusion, Agile is a broad approach focusing on delivering value through collaborative and adaptable approaches, whereas Scrum is a specific, structured framework under the Agile umbrella. The interchangeable use of Agile and Scrum is a common misconception stemming from the ubiquity and success of Scrum as an Agile methods. However, understanding the distinction is pivotal for effective project management and the correct application of principles and practices.

With its unique emphasis on structured processes, defined roles, and regular iterations, Scrum stands out among other Agile ways of working, like Kanban and XP, each with unique approaches and principles. Understanding these differences is crucial for those seeking Scrum certification or exploring and implementing various Agile methods based on their distinct project requirements.

In essence, a nuanced understanding of Agile principles and the various methods falling under its realm, including Scrum, can significantly enhance the execution and delivery of projects, paving the way for tremendous organisational success and individual professional development.

FAQ – Frequently Answers & Questions

1. What is the fundamental difference between Agile and Scrum?

Agile is a comprehensive approach or philosophy based on values and principles that focus on adaptability, customer satisfaction, and delivering high-value outputs. In contrast, Scrum is a specific, structured framework that is one of the practical implementations of Agile principles. It provides defined roles and processes, to facilitate project development in an Agile manner.

2. Is it correct to use the terms Agile and Scrum interchangeably?

Using Agile and Scrum interchangeably is a common misconception and must be corrected. While Scrum is a framework under the Agile umbrella, Agile is not a method but a set of values and principles. Other methods, like Kanban and XP, also adhere to Agile principles.

3. Can Scrum be considered as a type of Agile?

Yes, Scrum is indeed a way of becoming an Agile organisation. It is a specific method that adheres to and implements the values and principles outlined in the Agile approach, focusing on structured iterations, defined roles, and continuous improvement to deliver value efficiently.

4. Is a Scrum Master certification the same as an Agile certification?

No, a Scrum Master certification is specific to the Scrum framework and validates one’s knowledge and understanding of Scrum practices and principles, as the role of Scrum Master is specific to this method. In contrast, Agile certification is more encompassing, covering a broader range of methods and regulations under the Agile approach, including but not limited to Scrum.

5. Why is understanding the difference between Scrum and other Agile methods crucial?

Understanding the distinction between Scrum and other Agile methods is crucial as it enables professionals to select and implement the most suitable one based on their project’s needs and requirements. It ensures the correct application of principles and practices, leading to effective project management and successful, timely delivery of project goals.

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