Scrum Values: the value of commitment

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“People personally commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team.”
– The Scrum Guide

Commitment as a value sounds rather bit abstract and is often misunderstood. Get out of bed, brush your teeth, come into work with a positive mindset, follow instructions, make it to the deadline – right? In the context of the Scrum Values, commitment is about staying dedicated and (intrinsically) motivated to the objectives you developed as a Scrum Team.

Scrum Values: the value of commitment
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Scrum relies on the personal commitment of each team member to complete the Sprint. It assumes a fairly flat authority structure and does not expect managers to convince or coerce team members into completing tasks.

Think about the Scrum Team as an elite Special Forces unit. These small, specialized teams are highly adaptable and carry out complicated missions that can change in the blink of an eye. In order to successfully navigate these life and death situations, each team member must be a 100% committed – not only to the mission at hand, but to their fellow team members as well!

At first glance, commitment seems very simple. You get an assignment and you make sure it gets done. But what if you do not? What happens then? Certainly for a new Scrum Team that has just moved away from a traditional waterfall method, commitment is a difficult concept to grasp. It utilizes intrinsic motivation, which a command and control organization does not stimulate. If developers have been used to being directed for years (and often being judged on promises that they have not made themselves), they will not quickly express their commitment, let alone really stand behind it.

Commitment in practice

At the heart of commitment lies a purpose – or: goal. You can more easily commit to something if the overarching goal is clearly formulated and you can support it with the entire Scrum Team.

  • Scrum Teams must be able to work together as a unit to achieve a common goal. That means trusting one another to follow through on their tasks and deliver to the best of their abilities. This will only happen when each team member has fully committed to the team and the project.
  • A Scrum Team needs to commit to a Definition of Done for the Sprint Increment—and to delivering it. Nearly done won’t do.
  • In the Sprint Planning, the development team has to commit to a realistic product increment. The team is driven by realistic goals and an all-in teamwork approach is mandatory. The Sprint Goal is realistic and Product Backlog Items are clearly defined, so that responsibilities are clearly defined and team members can fulfill their obligations.
    • A small sidenote here: The Scrum Guide only states that a Product Backlog Item be sufficiently understood enough by the Developers so that they are confident they can deliver the item according to the Definition of Done (DoD) within the Sprint time box. A popular convention to manage this requirement is a ‘Definition of Ready’ (DoR), which is basically a checklist for the Developers to use to help guide them in their understanding and level of confidence to accept such work in the future.
  • At the Daily Scrum, the Scrum Team must be accountable for yesterday’s result and committed to taking the next step.
  • Contributing to team success and meeting daily challenges is crucial, but it’s equally important to speak up if the project is off track. Scrum teaches you to seek continuous improvement and optimize your efforts. So, a crucial part of commitment is reflecting on the common goal and making sure you’re prioritizing tasks that actually add value.
  • When the Sprint is over, the team needs to reflect on what they did through a Sprint Retrospective, and commit to improving processes moving forward.
  • The Scrum Master needs to commit to guiding the team toward its goals. Scrum Masters can help promote commitment by facilitating proper sprint planning and protecting teams from mid-sprint scope changes and unnecessary pressure from product owners. Scrum masters can help foster commitment through good communication!
  • I personally found aligning personal development goals to the Sprint Goal to have a positive influence on intrinsic motivation of the team.
  • Commitment does not only apply to the Scrum Team, but also to the Stakeholders. They should be honest and direct in providing feedback.

Commitment to Scrum

I’d like to end this article with another form of commitment that is of utmost importance: the whole organization needs to commit to Scrum.

Outside the Scrum Team, commitment means things like vowing to keep a distance and letting the Scrum Team accomplish its own goals.

If you apply Scrum in your organization, do it as it is intended. Far too often the application of Scrum is adapted or watered down before it has even started. The reason for this is often because Scrum feels foreign compared to traditional approaches or because people do not have time to learn it the right way. The consequence of this is that Scrum does not work as well as it supposed to be. So make sure people know their Scrum, so they can get behind it!

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