Scrum without values is an empty box
Scrum's success lies in your ability to implement it by opening yourself up to five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage.
These values direct the work you do, the actions you take, and the behavior you display.
You must keep these values in mind in each of the Scrum events. When you embody the values of Scrum, together with the rest of your team and stakeholders, you can take full advantage of the pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
Any decision you make about the continuous improvement of the work process must safeguard these values and not go against them.
Now, let's see what these values are and what they entail.
The Scrum team is committed to achieving its objectives and supporting each other. - Scrum Guide
Commitment to the rest of the Scrum team takes precedence over personal interests. You agree to support the other team members, act with solidarity and empathy, collaborate, create a quality product increment, and do your job professionally. You are committed to the product goal, being part of a self-managed and cross-functional team, seeking continuous improvement, and following the values and principles of the agile manifesto. As well as being transparent and challenging the status quo.
You commit to carrying out Scrum in its entirety, not just the easy parts. You promise to do your best, even if you cannot guarantee the result.
A behavior that I frequently observe is expecting the developers to deliver all the PBIs that they had selected to work on at the beginning of a Sprint. The work chosen for the Sprint is taken as an inalienable commitment instead of what it is, a forecast.
This erroneous interpretation of commitment is based on the also wrong understanding of Scrum as a predictive methodology. There is a belief that the team’s commitment to the Product Increment means that the team must deliver what they committed to in the Sprint. Be careful not to fall into the belief that commitment is an unspoken contract and an element of pressure for the team to deliver a specific Product Increment.
The Scrum Team commits to achieving its goals and to supporting each other. Their primary focus is on the work of the Sprint to make the best possible progress toward these goals. - Scrum Guide
You focus on the most important, and the most important thing at any given time is the work of this Sprint to achieve the planned Product Increase. The Sprint is a pre-established and fixed time event (we call this a time-box) with a goal and a Product Increment already planned. During the Sprint, your top priority is to build that Increment.
One of the most challenging aspects in practicing this value is the temptation to do things “just in case they are needed in the future.” Remember, you should only work on what is important now and not on what may become necessary in the future. You are in a complex context, and anticipating too much could make you pay a high price for basing your decisions on wrong assumptions.
Other issues that threaten focus are interruptions during the Sprint with unforeseen meetings or work related to topics not included in the Sprint or belonging to other teams. All of these situations should be avoided so as not to corrupt the potential value of applying Scrum. Focus on what needs to be done now and work within one team.
This is a challenge that many of us face frequently. In this sense, I can recommend the formula "Yes-No-Yes" 1. In the words of its author: "Unlike an ordinary No that begins with a No and ends with a No, a positive No begins with a Yes and ends with a Yes." So the parts would be:
- Yes! (affirmation): start by saying yes to yourself before others. Protect with this yes what is essential to you and prepare the ground for the No that follows.
- No (limit): Set the limit with No.
- Yes? (proposal): ends with a Yes that offers another solution to the person's request.
For example, when a manager tries to engage a developer in an unplanned meeting with a client in the middle of a Sprint, here's how you could respond by using the Yes-No-Yes formula:
- "Thank you for your interest in involving John in the meeting! You know, John made a decision a few days ago, along with the rest of his team, and he is committed to achieving a certain goal by next Friday, which means he needs to be focused on that job.”
- “I am afraid that if John dedicates time to this meeting, he would be endangering the achievement of that objective, not only at the individual level but also at the team level. This may further jeopardize the scheduled meeting with the stakeholders who will be reviewing the results. Therefore, John will not be able to participate in the meeting you are requesting”.
- “What we could do is reschedule that meeting for a time when John is available, and it will not affect the work with his team. We could also find another person who can go to the meeting in his place. What do you think?”
Additionally, focus prevents people from working in isolation, a common consequence if the work is distributed and each one is dedicated to their work. The Scrum team is much more effective if everyone focuses on a few topics at a time (one or two), and after finishing them, they move on to the next, together, and collaborating. This approach helps reduce waste by minimizing the backlog of work in progress.
The sense of shared responsibility of all Scrum Team members focuses on the collective result over individual achievements. In the face of uncertainty, the focus will also help you avoid analysis paralysis. You must focus on having an Increment working in a few weeks, so do not get caught up in your thoughts, believing that by analyzing the different possibilities, you will arrive at the correct answer since in a complex environment, this rarely happens. The key is to experiment and validate on facts and not on assumptions.
Being focused means that you will do one thing at a time. Before starting something new, make sure you've finished the previous one.
The Scrum team and stakeholders are open about their work and its challenges. - Scrum Guide
The empirical nature of Scrum demands learning from a constant inspection of reality. But how? For the fact you see to be as close to the truth as possible, you need a transparent environment. That transparency will not manifest itself if there is no honesty in the first place. To get the most out of this value, my interpretation is that honesty or frankness in the context of Scrum can be conceived in two ways.
Openness within the Scrum Team helps create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for and providing help. It will promote solidarity, the search for agreements, the expression of different points of view, and better decision-making.
If team members embrace openness as a value, they will lower their defenses and the need to protect their image against the possibility of making a mistake or error. Being open will allow you to admit mistakes and change direction without personal attachments to the work as part of continuous inspection and adaptation.
To be honest with others, we must also practice being honest with ourselves. For example, if we achieve humble honesty in the face of our capacities and shortcomings, we will know what else we need to learn, and we will have greater tolerance with our teammates and our environment.
This value taken to its extreme requires courage and can help us experience comfort in the face of the unknown and find innovative solutions to complex problems. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is a critical value that needs to be worked on a lot. I believe that the reason why is that our current culture has little tolerance for error, and this is coupled with the need to "hold a certain image" in front of others. Let's contemplate a moment: Can you imagine a world where we can make mistakes and not feel that we pay a high price for them? How much more lightness could we bring to our lives, and how much more innovation would we be able to get to our world?
Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people, and are respected as such by the people with whom they work. - Scrum Guide
No matter what role you occupy, show respect for your teammates, for their skills, experiences, and competencies.
Show respect for their right to decide how to do their job. Respect their decisions and opinions; you have an excellent opportunity to learn from them. When people feel heard and taken into account, they are more likely to support team decisions, even if they disagree. This is called consent.
Judge actions and respect people. This will ensure a much safer environment to implement continuous improvement.
And above all things, respect yourself. Say "no" when you feel the need to say no. By doing so, you enhance your autonomy and legitimacy as a person. Don't accept the status quo if you think it can be improved.
The Scrum Team members have the courage to do the right thing, to work on tough problems. \ - Scrum Guide
Courage is bravery. You are brave when you decide to build only what adds value and not work on things that no one will use. Bravery is focusing on what is important now and not what might become important in the future.
You are brave when you do not hesitate to get to work, even knowing that no plan is perfect and that there will be challenges ahead.
You are brave when you openly acknowledge that those things that were intended to be done were not achieved. Bravery is not making excuses. Courage is taking charge of what happens. Courage is not pretending in front of your clients and showing unfinished products.
You are brave when you share all the information you have so that the rest of the team and the organization benefit, especially when many of us have been educated with the premise of "information is power." In a collaborative context like Scrum, you show courage when you are transparent, even when you feel pressure not to be.
Doing things correctly, without shortcuts or with poor quality, is also being brave.
You are brave when you complain to your teammates when they miss their commitments, regardless of their role.
You show courage by admitting that the assumptions on which you based your decisions were not correct. You are brave when you accept it and change direction accordingly. Courage is accepting your mistakes openly. Courage is recognizing that you do not have access to complete information and that your views may change as you learn. Courage is being intellectually humble.
You are brave when you take on the challenge of building something you have never built before, even without guarantees that it will work. You are brave when you embark with your clients on a journey of joint learning without promising results that are actually uncertain.
When you are a Scrum Master, you demonstrate courage in pursuing continuous improvement by facing organizational impediments, the status quo and resistance to change, and going beyond the team’s limitations.