Scrum Teams: Potential Through Values

The world is in continuous development, and businesses and organizations are constantly seeking methods to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and deliver value. Scrum, a method to put the Agile mindset into practice, has demonstrated how powerful such an approach is to achieving these goals.

In this article, we will explore the essence of Scrum – its definition and values – and how it is fundamentally centered around people. We are going to see that the team is at the core of Scrum and its victory depends on how we implement the values and principles of Agile and Scrum.

What Is Scrum

Scrum is one of the most applied frameworks to manage Agile initiatives and projects. It is designed to help teams work together, to learn through experiences, self-organize and reflect on both their successes and setbacks to improve continuously. While Scrum is often associated with software development, its values and practices can be applied across various fields: product marketing, development, financial services, and so on. In short, Scrum is one of the ways to put the Agile mindset into practice. 

The Scrum Team

At the center of the Scrum process sits the team, the vital engine driving all project-specific actions in accordance with Scrum practices. The Scrum team isn't just any group of individuals; it's a compact and unified squad of no more than 10 professionals, each with a different expertise.

The Scrum Team has to deliver meaningful work, also called an increment, each Sprint—these are fixed length and relatively short, consistent periods where the team focuses on creating something of value. But their duty doesn't end there; they're also in charge of every aspect related to the product's development. This means the Scrum team handles interactions with stakeholders, making sure the product meets their requirements, as well as testing, offering support, and conducting research—whatever the project demands.With a clear product vision, the Scrum Team dedicates itself to one main objective at a time: the Product Goal. This singular focus ensures that every step they take is aligned with delivering a successful outcome for the project.
Scrum addresses complex problems and requires professional teams to solve them. These teams are defined by two major characteristics:

  • Self-managing: They decide who does what, when, and how they will work. No one tells the team how to turn current work items into deliverables. The team organizes itself to get the job done in the way they feel is best. In Scrum, there are no hierarchies or sub-teams and the entire team is accountable. Either the whole team succeeds or it fails to achieve its goals.
  • Cross-functional: Teams have as many skills as necessary to create valuable and high-quality growth for each Sprint.

In essence, Scrum teams are all about working together, like a rugby team pushing in the same direction in a scrum. Everyone has a role, shares their know-how and helps out the rest of the team to reach one shared target.

Where Does the Success of a Scrum Team Come From?

The potential of a Scrum team is derived not only from the tools they use or the strategies they employ, but also from the love that defines their way of work and from the values and principles that the team embraces in the life of the projects.

The strong sense of passion and dedication you see in a Scrum team's work comes from their deep commitment to Agile and Scrum core values and principles. These beliefs guide how they work together, how they make choices, and thus achieve great results.

The 5 Values in Scrum

Scrum is defined by five values that serve as the foundation for the team's culture and work ethic, guiding the behavior and decision-making processes of the team members namely: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.
Here's how each value contributes to the scope of a Scrum team's work and helps it to perform.

1. Commitment

Commitment is at the heartbeat of the Scrum value system, propelling teams toward their collective goals with a shared sense of purpose and dedication. It's about engaging fully with one's peers, embracing collaboration, and working daily for a quality result. Each member is dedicated to the objectives set at the beginning of each Sprint, ensuring that every action taken is aligned with reaching those targets.
Teams commit to ensuring that every task, every story, and every feature they work on delivers the maximum value that the customer expects. This value-driven approach ensures that resources are used effectively and that the team's work has a meaningful impact. Teams regularly evaluate their work and processes and they are committed to making the necessary adjustments to improve.
Finally, commitment to transparency is about openness and honesty in all the team's dealings. By being transparent, the team builds trust, ensures clarity, and fosters an environment where informed decisions can be made. This commitment to transparency is foundational to the integrity and success of the Scrum process.

2. Courage

Having the courage to "call things by their name" is a key aspect in Scrum. This means speaking plainly and addressing issues directly, whether they are problems with the product, processes, or interpersonal dynamics. It's about having those tough conversations and being honest, even when it's uncomfortable. Courage also means sharing your ideas freely. Every team member's input is valuable and when individuals share openly, the team benefits from diverse perspectives and collective intelligence.

Moreover, courage involves speaking up when something is wrong and persisting until it is resolved. It's not enough to identify a problem; team members must also take responsibility for finding a resolution or at least a workaround. This approach ensures that issues don't derail progress.

Stepping forward and volunteering for challenges is another aspect of courage. It's about taking the initiative, even when tasks are daunting or outside one's comfort zone. This willingness to lead or to tackle difficult problems head-on can inspire and motivate the entire team. Understanding and accepting imperfection is also a form of courage. Teams must recognize that requirements may evolve and that no plan can fully anticipate the complexities of real-world scenarios. Embracing this reality allows teams to be more flexible and responsive to change.

Changing direction when necessary is essential as well. Scrum teams must be agile, not just in methodology but also in mindset. Change should be seen as an opportunity for new possibilities and an inspiration for innovation. Finally, courage is about admitting shortcomings—whether it's a lack of expertise in a particular technology, a misunderstood task, or a misjudgment in estimation. By acknowledging these gaps, teams can seek help, learn, and grow stronger.

For instance, during a Sprint, a client approached a developer on our team with a request for an urgent change to the project. Following Scrum practices, the developer brought this request to the attention of the Product Owner (PO) and the whole team. A joint analysis determined it was a minor change that could be included in the current sprint and handled by the developer who received the initial request.

However, a few days into development, the developer had not yet completed the task, his status updates during the Daily were ambiguous and he had even started a new task. After a discussion with the Scrum Master, the developer admitted that the task had been underestimated, and wanting to assume full responsibility and protect the team, he intended to finish it on his own, simultaneously with another task.

This is one case where good intentions do not help either the team or the project. Normally, the developer should have openly shared the challenges faced and worked with the team to find solutions. Behavior that aligns with Scrum values is marked by prompt openness, courage in admitting mistakes, and commitment to work together to solve problems. Each challenge is an opportunity for the team to grow stronger and more cohesive respecting Scrum practices.

3. Focus

As mentioned earlier, at the heart of Scrum is the commitment to a common goal. Focus enables Scrum teams to align their efforts and drive toward this goal with precision and clarity. The benefits of focus are clear: work not only progresses faster but also with greater efficiency and quality. When team members concentrate on their tasks, they can produce results that are not just timely but also of a higher standard.

Scrum's iterative-incremental approach, combined with time-boxing, stimulates focus. The framework's structure encourages teams to focus on what needs to be accomplished in the short term, providing clear boundaries within which to work. This method keeps the team centered on the present. This here-and-now philosophy allows the team to manage current knowledge and make informed decisions, rather than getting bogged down by hypotheticals or distant possibilities.

Getting things done is at the core of Scrum and focus is the key to completion. By channeling their efforts on work that needs to be finished, team members can drive tasks to completion before moving on to the next challenge. This discipline in focusing ensures that progress is continuous and tangible.

Lastly, Scrum teams embrace simplicity, focusing on the simplest solution that could work effectively. This approach avoids overcomplication and keeps the team agile, able to adapt and respond with solutions that are simple and safe.

4. Openness

Openness allows teams to build trust, foster innovation, and overcome the complexities of project development. In Scrum, all information should be readily accessible and clear to every member of the team. This ensures that everyone has the full context needed to contribute effectively to the project's goals. By making knowledge available to all, teams can avoid misunderstandings and ensure that all members are on the same page.

Openness also means that problems or impediments are not hidden away. Instead, they are made visible to the entire team and this transparency allows teams to address issues promptly and collaboratively before they escalate.

Learning through practice, a fundamental aspect of Scrum is grounded in the value of openness. Learning is an ongoing process and this is only possible through a transparent sharing of work, progress, educational opportunities, and existing or potential problems. By embracing this openness, teams can continually grow and improve their skills and processes.

Openness also encourages team members to collaborate beyond their immediate circle, to learn from others, and to integrate diverse perspectives into their work. This openness to external collaboration can lead to more innovative solutions and a deeper understanding of customer needs. Feedback loops are essential to Scrum and teams that are open to receiving and providing feedback can foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Lastly, openness to change is important in an Agile environment where adaptability is key. Scrum teams must be willing to pivot or alter their course based on new insights, stakeholder input, or shifts in the market. By embracing openness in all its forms, Scrum teams can create a supportive, innovative, and results-oriented culture that drives their projects forward.

I remember how in one of my first projects at eSolutions, one of the more experienced team members suggested an innovative approach by creating a new innovative framework. This framework aimed to bridge the gap between requirements and code and to help rapidly define a project's requirements.

There were mixed feelings about this approach since it meant a significant shift from the usual workflow in previous projects - some team members were curious and excited, while others were more skeptical of trying something new. This was a clear example of resistance to change, but through unconditional support in explaining the framework's benefits and in the process of adoption, the framework gained appreciation.

This experience reflects the natural tension between maintaining Scrum values like openness and courage while managing the practical aspects of implementing new technology. It's not just about innovation vs. comfort zone, but also about the benefits of curiosity and being open to novelty, learning, and growth.

The key takeaway is that promoting an environment that encourages innovation, providing permanent support during transitions, and maintaining open channels of communication can ultimately lead to a stronger, more adaptable team capable of using new tools to their advantage.

5. Respect

Last but not least, in Scrum, respect acts as a foundation stone, holding the diverse components together and creating a strong, unified team. Respect in Scrum is multifaceted, influencing how team members interact with each other, their work, and the wider user community.

Respect for people and their ideas is paramount, especially when those ideas differ from our own. Diversity in thought and experience strengthens a team, bringing a wealth of perspectives. This kind of respect is essential in promoting an environment where individuals feel confident enough to share openly and honestly, which relates to the value we discussed earlier - openness.

Showing respect means valuing people's personal experiences and backgrounds, as well as their skills, expertise, and knowledge. This helps create a harmonious and productive work environment, where everyone feels heard and appreciated for their unique contributions. When team members feel respected, they're more likely to bring their best selves to the project, while respecting each other welcomes collaboration which leads to a higher quality output.

In Scrum, each role comes with its set of responsibilities that help maintain balance and clarity within the team. Whether it's the Product Owner, Scrum Master, or Development Team, respecting the distinct contributions of these roles ensures that the Scrum process runs smoothly and effectively. The Scrum framework itself commands respect. Teams that adhere to its values and ceremonies show that they value the structure and guidance it provides. This respect for the framework ensures that the team maintains discipline and focus throughout the development process.
In summary, respect is not just an abstract value. By putting respect at the center of their interactions, teams can build a positive, empowering culture that leads to better communication, greater innovation, and successful outcomes.

Key Takeaways

Throughout this article, we've explored the Scrum values and highlighted how each one contributes to promoting an optimal work environment — one that offers teams continuous learning opportunities, encourages collaboration, and opens the way for exceptional professional achievements within a unified team. When a team fully embraces these values — Focus, Openness, Respect, Commitment, and Courage — each member is empowered to contribute with their best work, leading to innovation and quality results.

I would like to conclude with a recommendation. Dear readers, if you aspire to be part of a successful team, ensure that you cultivate a trustworthy work environment where constant feedback is not just welcomed but expected and where true leadership is present. In such an environment, the Scrum values can truly take root, enabling both individuals and teams to succeed. Remember, these values are more than just guidelines, they are the bedrock of high-performing teams. Embrace these core principles and see how they change the way your team works together, improve the results of your projects, and guide you to great agile performance.

About the Author

Raluca Orha

In her 12 years working as a Project Manager, Raluca Orha has successfully implemented over 20 IT projects. She has certifications in Scrum, ITIL, Prince2, and follows the Agile methodology in all her endeavors, promoting collaboration and strong teams.