Implementing Scrum without the 5 Scrum values is like cooking a gourmet meal with expired ingredients. You can follow the recipe, but you’ll get rubbish.
The 5 Scrum values are focus, openness, respect, courage, and commitment. Successfully using Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living these values. However, putting these values into practice can be more challenging than it seems.
The 5 scrum Values of focus, openness, respect, courage, and commitment guide the entire team to establish a culture of trust and collaboration, ultimately leading to more productive and successful outcomes.
Let’s quickly discuss each of the 5 Scrum values. Since I love food, let’s stick with the cooking analogy.
Focus in Scrum is about limiting work in progress to complete a product backlog item before moving on to the next one. A cognitive bias known as Naive Allocation leads us to believe we’re better off diversifying our efforts across the multiple Product Backlog Items instead of concentrating on one until it’s finished.
My mother-in-law is a perfect example of this. I love her food, but when she’s in the kitchen, she has two modes: laser focus or total distraction. I’ve watched her patiently stare through the oven window. Her primary focus was a batch of biscuits, and she waited until they reached the perfect level of golden brown before patiently removing them. I’ve also watched her flip a grilled-cheese sandwich and then try to multi-task while waiting for it to get golden brown.
The toast never fairs as well as the biscuits. Focusing on a Product Backlog Item until it’s complete is the best way to ensure it gets done and meets quality standards. Refrain from letting cognitive biases and fallacies like multi-tasking lure you away from doing your best work.
Openness in Scrum maximizes input to ensure the best outcome. We’re not going to judge an idea by its source. All thoughts are valuable and will not be instantly discounted based on irrelevant details, such as being generated by a junior developer or someone with a different background than our own.
We can’t become so stuck in our ways that we dismiss a brilliant idea. Being close-minded is a nail in innovation’s coffin.
Think of how an open-minded chef is willing to try new techniques and ingredients. This leads to new dishes, and those new dishes inspire other meals.
Openness in Scrum allows teams to explore new ideas and innovate.
Respect in Scrum is about trusting your team members to be competent and do their part.
After watching Hell’s Kitchen for years, I’m no longer surprised when someone claims a team member sabotaged them.
Producers of this show team chefs up with strangers, and they’re all competing to win a prize. It’s hard to get independent people to function as a team because everyone is out to win for themselves.
In a healthy kitchen, the mutual respect shared by the team allows them to work with their colleagues to achieve a common goal. You’re not worried about being stabbed in the back or someone else dropping the ball. Similarly, the Scrum Team realizes that the Sprint Goal is a team commitment, and they naturally work collaboratively to accomplish that goal.
Courage in Scrum is about speaking the truth, even when doing so is uncomfortable.
When the chicken is raw, someone needs to call that out. You can’t serve that to a customer.
Just like members of a Scrum Team need to call out quality issues and systemic organizational impediments, it can be hard to be the person that talks about the elephant in the room that everyone else is trying to avoid.
Still, someone needs to do it, or we’re just stuck with the stinky elephant.
It can also take courage to admit when you need help or to experiment with a new process that could fail. It takes courage to ask the Product Owner questions about the Product Backlog and to call out when you believe the team may have accepted too much work in Sprint Planning. Scrum Teams learn to become comfortable with all these things because they know that’s how they learn and innovate.
Having the courage to question the status quo enables a Scrum Team to identify possibilities of improvement and empowers a continuous improvement mindset.
Commitment in Scrum is about each development team member’s devotion to following the process, executing the work, and delivering a quality product.
A chef and their team must ensure all guests are satisfied with their meal. This means there has to be consistency and quality throughout the process, from taking the order, preparing the dish, and presenting the plate.
You can’t have one cook cooking a different meal than the rest of the team, and you can’t serve raw chicken. Everyone must follow the process if they’ve developed a standard for consistently making salads.
Commitment is essential to achieve the benefits of Scrum. Each member of the Development Team should contribute to the team goal and can’t be off working on a side project just because they’re interested in it. The entire team (including the Product Owner) must prioritize quality, and the team values must align with the Scrum values.
The Scrum Team must be devoted to the process, the product’s quality, and achieving the Product Goals.
Commitment is not about guaranteeing the Sprint Commitment. We’re not trying to “do what we said we’d do,” hit arbitrary deadlines, realize forecasts, always complete the Sprint Goal, or predict the future.
If you’d like further explanation on the 5 Scrum values, Gunther Verheyen does an excellent job of explaining the role of the Scrum values in Scrum in his article There’s Value in the Scrum Values.
If you still have questions, check out the Scrum values FAQ.
You might wonder, “But what about the three pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation?”
It’s common for Scrum practitioners to occasionally confuse or conflate the Scrum pillars and values, as well as the Scrum values and principles. It’s worth noting that these are distinct and separate concepts.
The Scrum pillars enable empiricism or an experimental approach to continuous improvement.
Though some sources have attempted to define Scrum principles, the Scrum Guide does not talk about principles. This lack of principles differs from other agile frameworks or approaches like Extreme Programming, which specifically calls out a set of practices and principles that agile teams should follow.
It’s also common to conflate the agile values specified in the Agile Manifesto with the 5 Scrum Values. Although the Agile Manifesto and Scrum Values share some common ground, it’s worth noting that the Agile Manifesto values are more abstract and generic, while the Scrum Values are more tangible and geared towards the needs of the Scrum Team.
If we’re all trying to go in the same general direction, it makes it easier to call out when someone is doing something that doesn’t fit within those guidelines. If a colleague says, “You’re not being very respectful,” that will have a specific meaning to members of the Scrum Team, and that same feedback might not have the same interpretation outside the team context.
The scrum values are a compass that helps us make decisions in difficult situations. When everyone is marching to the same values, it helps bring clarity to the Scrum Team and reduces time to make decisions. When choosing between multiple options, decisions are simplified when evaluating which option best aligns with the 5 Scrum values.
When everyone respects each other, provides constructive feedback, is allowed to focus on getting work done, is open to new ideas, and is committed to achieving a common goal, a collaborative culture naturally emerges.
The Scrum Values were not always present. The authors added them in the 2016 revision to the Scrum Guide.
“Successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living five values”
- Scrum Guide
This is a very profound statement that you might initially be inclined to overlook. I’ve read countless articles about how Scrum is dead, and Scrum doesn’t work, Scrum isn’t agile, etc. You can go on Reddit or other forums and find countless complaints against the framework. But, most of the struggles with Scrum arise when people aren’t doing Scrum.
“Scrum is like your mother-in-law, it points out ALL your faults.”
- Ken Schwaber
Scrum itself is simple, but implementing it isn’t easy. A Scrum Team will run into countless systemic organizational impediments that will make it hard to implement Scrum. When things start to get tough, it’s typical for teams to look for workarounds.
It’s so typical that we’ve invented a term for it. We call it ScrumBut. The 5 Scrum values are the primary difference between teams practicing Scrum and teams doing Scrumbut.
If you’re not living the values, you will start working around the limitations of your entire organization. Soon, you tweaked the framework so much that it’s not Scrum anymore. Of course, it doesn’t work. Of course, it’s not agile.
I follow a keto diet, with a few exceptions. On Friday, I go to the local Mexican restaurant and have dinner w/ my heartmate and down a 32 oz margarita. On Saturday mornings, I go to a local gas station and get two tenderloin biscuits. On Tuesday, we often eat out with friends to stay in touch. Once a month, on Saturday, we cater lunch from a chicken franchise for my husband’s D&D game. Most Sundays, I get a fried chicken strip chef salad from a local restaurant and bring a second back to eat on Monday because everyone hates Mondays. Usually, a couple of times throughout the week, I’ll eat out to relieve some of the stress from my job.
Other than those few exceptions, I follow a keto diet, but I’ve not been losing any weight for some reason. It’s a mystery.
If you are up to solving why the pounds aren’t just flying off of me, you can also combine the pieces to understand why most teams doing Scrumbut believe Scrum doesn’t work.
Implementing Scrum without the 5 Scrum values is like making a sandwich with moldy bread and expired salami. Sure, you can try to follow the recipe, but the result is bound to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
When we exemplify the 5 Scrum values, we can all create a recipe for success that will satisfy everyone.