We have seen thousands of Scrum Teams and dozens of distinct kinds of Scrum. We have observed that there are two major discriminators when looking at different Scrums: different kinds of Product Ownership and different kinds of Sprint Planning. We find that there are three distinctly-different types of each, leading to Nine Zones of Scrum, as we see in the picture.


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9 Zones of Scrum Table


We use the word ‘Zone’ to indicate that it could contain many different kinds of Scrum. Healthy teams are always looking for ways to improve their practices, their tools, their collaborations, and themselves. We should observe a healthy team migrating towards a Zone that is optimal for their environment.

Scrum teams self-organize to achieve their goals. However, their environment provides factors that affect how the team accomplishes its work and builds its product. These environmental factors can have a large impact on the Zone the Team occupies.

  • The Nature of the Product will impact collaboration and feedback rhythms.

    For example, think about building a helicopter vs developing a web presence to promote a doctor’s services. The former will have a longer feedback rhythm.

  • External Leadership influences how empowered the team feels and is encouraged to feel.

    If leadership does not strongly support the team’s self-organization the team is unlikely to change and will stay stuck in whatever zone they’ve become accustomed to.

  • Regulatory Authorities that place constraints on development of products.

    For example, airplanes, prescription drugs, importing goods and services, and many more products face significant regulatory hurdles.

  • Other Environmental Factors that can impact the team.

    This is not an exhaustive list.


The “responsiveness” dimension of the diagram indicates how easily content can be adjusted during the Sprint. Scrums in the first column do not allow their Sprint Backlogs to be changed once they have been determined during Sprint Planning, Scrums in the second column allow for adjustments to the Sprint Backlog during the Sprint, and Scrums in the third column dynamically create their Sprint Backlogs during the Sprint. Most environments are too volatile to allow ‘first column’ Scrums to be successful, and many lack the discipline to be a ‘third column’ Scrum; so we recommend that new Scrum Teams start off as ‘second column’ Scrums.


The “collaboration” dimension of the diagram shows the relationship between Tactical and Strategic Product Ownership. Strategic Product Ownership determines what to deliver to outside Clients and Customers, and Tactical Product Ownership determines what Results the Scrum Team produces. Scrums in the first row have two different Product Owners (a Strategic one ‘living with’ the Stakeholders, and a Tactical one on the Scrum Team), Scrums in the second row have a Tactical Product Owner (on the Scrum Team) who also works with Stakeholders, and Scrums in the third row have a Strategic Product Owner (living with the Stakeholders) who also works with the Scrum Team.

Product Ownership

We believe that if the Sprint Backlog is changeable, this is usually complicated enough that the Team needs on-board Tactical Product Ownership, which occurs in rows one and two. We also believe that most Organization’s Stakeholders are a disorganized group that requires a dedicated Strategic Product Owner. So, in most cases, we recommend the ‘row one’ solution to Product Ownership - but we believe that both ‘row two’ and ‘row three’ Product Ownership can be useful in some environments.

Basically, when a single Product Owner cannot keep up with the demand for decisions - both Strategic and Tactical - it becomes necessary to scale up and have two of them. Not surprisingly, when we need to scale our Organization to handle multiple Teams and/or multiple Products, we often find the need for multiple Product Owners.

Suboptimal Scrums

The Zones in the first column and the bottom row are often ‘zombie’ Scrums. These are Scrums that are old-fashioned, suboptimal, and the universe keeps trying to kill - but they won’t stay dead. The four Scrums in the upper-right corner are considered ‘modern’ Scrums - the ones that work in the environments we usually see today.

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