With Scrum, a framework is created for people and organizations to develop a working process that is specific and appropriate to their time and context. Within the boundaries of Scrum, people self-organize by forming organized groups around problems or challenges without external work plans or instructions being imposed on them. The rules and principles of Scrum all serve empiricism, aka empirical process control, as the best fitted approach to address complex challenges in complex circumstances. Self-organization and empiricism form Scrum’s DNA.
There is however more to Scrum than rules and principles. Scrum is more about behavior than it is about process. The framework of Scrum is based upon five core values. Although these values were not invented as a part of Scrum, and are not exclusive to Scrum, they do give direction to the work, behavior and actions in Scrum (when understood appropriately against the background of people, complexity and empiricism).
Scrum is a framework of rules, principles and… values.
Scrum is based upon these values as well as it is expressed through them:
- Values drive behavior. Each Scrum Value reflects distinct types of behavior that guide us in understanding and enacting the rules of Scrum better and getting more value from them.
- Behavior reflects values. One can expect that as an adoption of Scrum progresses, as sophistication and fluidity increase, as Scrum is understood better and enacted more, the Scrum Values take precedence in people’s interactions and collaborative work. They are like a health indicator of your Scrum.
But, these values are just words until given meaning against the background of complexity and empiricism:
The general definition of ‘commitment’ is “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”. It can be illustrated by a team’s trainer stating “I could not fault my players for (their) commitment” (although they might have just lost a game).
This describes exactly how commitment is intended in Scrum. Commitment is about dedication and applies to the actions and the intensity of the effort. It is not about the final result, as this in itself is often uncertain and unpredictable for complex challenges in complex circumstances.
Yet, there is a widely spread misinterpretation of the word commitment. In a context of Scrum this originates mainly from the past expectation expressed in the Scrum framework that teams should ‘commit’ to a Sprint. Through the lens of the traditional, industrial paradigm this was wrongly translated into an expectation that all scope selected at the Sprint Planning would be completed by the end of the Sprint, no matter what. ‘Commitment’ was wrongly converted into a hard-coded contract.
In the complex, creative and highly unpredictable worlds that Scrum helps us navigate, a promise to deliver some exact, or exactly predicted, output or scope against time, and potentially budget, is not possible. Too many variables influencing the work are unknown or behave in unpredictable ways.
To better reflect the original intent and connect more effectively to empiricism, ‘commitment’ in the context of scope for a Sprint was replaced with ‘forecast’. To better reflect the true intent, I prefer saying that people ‘are committed to’ rather than ‘people commit to’. It helps staying away from seeing it as a hard-coded promise of a predicted result.
Regardless, commitment is an important Scrum value driving behavior of the players:
The players are committed to the team and to team collaboration. They commit to quality. Commit to learn. Commit to do the best they can, every day again, from the commitment to work at a sustainable pace. They are committed to the Sprint Goal. They commit to act as professionals. Commit to self-organize. Commit to excellence. Commit to the Agile values and principles. Commit to create working versions of product that comply with the definition of Done. Commit to look for improvements. Commit to the Scrum framework. Commit to deliver value. Commit to finish work. Commit to inspect and adapt. Commit to transparency. Commit to challenge the status-quo.
The balanced but distinct accountabilities of Scrum enable all players to focus on their expertise, interests and talents. The focus on overarching ambitions and goals invites them to combine, extend and improve their expertise, skills and talents.
The time-boxing of Scrum encourages the players to focus on what’s most important now without being bothered by considerations of what might stand a chance of becoming important at some point in the future. They focus on what they know now. YAGNI (‘You Ain’t Gonna Need It’) helps in retaining that focus. The players focus on what’s imminent as the future is highly uncertain and they want to learn from the present in order to gain experience for future work. They focus on the work needed to get things done. They focus on the simplest thing that might possibly work.
The Sprint Goal gives focus to a period of 4 weeks, or less. Within that period, the Daily Scrum helps people collaboratively focus on the immediate daily work needed to make the best possible progress towards the Sprint Goal. Product Goals provide focus across Sprints and help finding and keeping direction.
The empiricism of Scrum requires transparency, openness and honesty. The player-inspectors check on the current situation in order to make sensible adaptations. The players are open about their work, progress, learnings and problems. They are open for the people aspect of work, for working with people; acknowledging people to be…people, and not ‘resources’, robots, cogs or replaceable pieces of machinery.
The players are open to collaborate across disciplines, skills and job descriptions. They are open to collaborate with stakeholders and the wider environment. Open in sharing feedback and learning from one another.
They are open for change as the organization and the world in which they operate change; unpredictably, unexpectedly and constantly.
The broader Scrum ecosystem thrives on respect for people; respect for people’s experience, personality and personal background. The players respect diversity. They respect each other’s skills, expertise and insights. They respect different opinions as the fertile ground to constructively disagree.
The players respect the wider environment by not behaving as an isolated entity in the world. They respect the fact that customers change their mind. They show respect for the sponsors by not building or not keeping functions that are never used and that increase the total cost of the product. They show respect by not wasting money on things that are not valuable, not appreciated or might never be implemented or used anyhow. They show respect for users by fixing their problems.
All players respect the Scrum framework. They respect the accountabilities of Scrum.
The players show courage by not building stuff that nobody wants. Courage in admitting that requirements will never be perfect and that no plan can capture reality and complexity.
They show the courage to consider change as a source of inspiration and innovation. Courage to not deliver undone versions of product. Courage in sharing all possible information that might help the team and the organization. Courage in admitting that nobody is perfect. Courage to change direction. Courage to share risks and benefits. Courage to let go of the feint certainties of the past.
The players show courage in promoting Scrum, self-organization and empiricism to deal with complexity.
They show courage to take a decision, act and make progress, not grind. And even more courage to change that decision.
They show the courage to support and enact the Scrum Values.