Understanding Scrum Values

Being an Agile framework, Scrum reflects the values expressed in the Agile Manifesto (http://agilemanifesto.org/). On top on these values, Scrum adds its own five (common-sense) values, but critical for the success of a Scrum implementation. These are: Commitment, Focus, Courage, Openness and Respect.

As can be seen, each value is a single word that can mean different things to different people. The team needs to sit together and determine what these values mean to them, to have a common, shared view on them.

The team determines the amount of work it can accomplish in the next sprint, in the sprint planning meeting and commits to getting it done. The commitment is done as a team, as the entire team succeeds or fails in meeting its commitments. In addition, there is also a commitment for each team member to the team itself. Each team member will do what must be done to help each other succeed, so the team will succeed.

Commitment means the team must be Focused on the work of the sprint. They cannot be pulled for other projects. The team focuses on a small list of items, the tasks accepted into the sprint backlog. Team focus on the same well-defined goals leads to high-quality work that delivers value quickly.

As the team gains trust in their ability to work together and accomplish goals, they have courage to stretch and take on more work and greater challenges. Everyone makes mistakes. Courage is needed to point out the issues as they arise, allowing the team to fail early. Failing early may seem like a strange concept, but its highly desirable. Knowing of a failure early in the project allows quick adjustments and recovery, resulting in a successful project overall. While in traditional methodologies, the team does not realize they have failed till the end of the project. Courage means the team speaks up when things are not going well. And is also comfortable telling the product owner "NO," when they feel they cannot accept more work into the sprint without going over capacity, which relates to the next value, Openness.

Openness relates to visibility, to be open about where the team is and how they are progressing. The team is open about issues, concerns, and blockages as they come up, so they can be addressed and removed. Openness is built-into the daily Scrum stand-up meetings, where each team member relates what they did the past day, what they will do today, and the blockages they are facing. It is also built into the sprint retrospective meeting, where the team discusses the things that went right and wrong in the last sprint. Openness also relates to the transparency inherent in Scrum, shown in the burndown chart that is publicly posted, and shows how much work has been completed and is left to do at any time during the sprint.

All the other values come together in the last one, Respect. In Scrum, it is respected the team's ability to self-organize, and take on what they feel they can accomplish in the sprint timeframe. The team is not pressured to undertake more than they can perform at a sustainable pace, as sustainable development is the eighth Agile principle. It is respected the team's need to focus on the goals of the sprint, and do not try to distract them with outside work. The opinions of others is respected, which gives them the courage to be open. The effort and commitment of others is respected, even when they fail, as failing early allows the entire project to succeed in the end. And since teams commit to the work they will accomplish, they respect their commitments to accomplishing the goals and to their team.

Operating on the five Scrum values is key to creating the culture that supports the Scrum process.