Scrum Values Can Make or Break Your Agile Project

Do you know the scrum values? Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage are the five scrum values that drive agility. Understanding them can lead to better decisions, higher quality work, and a truly agile environment.

Wandering Magpie | Top Value Trading Stamps | Flickr.com

Wandering Magpie | Top Value Trading Stamps | Flickr.com

These scrum values are critical to understanding the “why” of scrum. They act as the guideposts when the team gets lost. More importantly, the scrum values drive the decisions that impact our daily work. Failing to understand the scrum values will prevent a team from improving their ability to deliver value.

  • Commitment:  Commitment is a dirty word in the agile world. It reminds people of gantt charts and deadlines. But a commitment is a truly powerful thing. It is a promise to either yourself or others to deliver. Scrum teams make a commitment to the product owner during every sprint. Scrum team members make a commitment to each other to adhere to scrum.
  • Focus:  People work better when they are not distracted. Valuing focus means that we give people the time they need to think about their work. Creativity is hard enough without constantly being interrupted! Insisting that team members are focused on one project, one sprint, and one task at a time gives the team the best chance of delivering on their commitments.
  • Openness:  Clear minds and open hearts can do a lot of good in the world. This is especially true for agile projects. Only open minds can conduct effective sprint retrospective meetings. Openness is at the core of transparency, which is what makes scrum work. If scrum is not transparent, there can be no inspection or adaptation. This effectively means that without openness, there can be no improvement.
  • Respect:  Transparency is scary. Admitting when you are stuck is hard. Respect makes these actions possible. A high-performing scrum team is built on mutual respect. Frank discussions require respect to stay constructive. Respect for peers removes the “us vs. them” mentality and helps a team gel, grow, and learn together.
  • Courage:  Courage is the linchpin for the other scrum values. It takes courage to commit. It takes courage to focus and tell other competing activities “no”. It takes courage to be open to new ideas. It takes courage and faith in your team to count on respectful interactions.

Given the importance of the scrum values, a scrum master should coach their teams on them regularly. Here are two suggestions that scrum masters can use to help their teams become more familiar with the scrum values:

  1. During your next sprint retrospective, write each value across the top of a white board. Ask the team to come up ways that they applied each value during the last sprint. You should also ask how the values were violated. This exercise will hopefully lead to a discussion about each scrum value. Over time, this will create a common understanding about how each value applies to the team.
  2. If your team is more action oriented you can try framing each scrum value as a deliverable on the team backlog. The story format can be used to make the “value stories” actionable.
    1. [AS A] scrum team member [I WANT] to show up on time to scrum events [IN ORDER TO] show respect to the team.

When deciding to play the game of scrum we are accepting not only the practices, but also the scrum values. Now that you understand them a bit better you can focus on applying them to your daily activities. Over time you see should improvements in not only the deliverable, but in how the team members interact with one another.

Question: How does your team work on their understanding of the scrum values? What has been most effective for your team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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