Can The New Scrum Values Change Culture?

In the first update to The Scrum Guide™ , “The Definitive Guide to Scrum” for three years, Ken Schwaber (@kschwaber) and Jeff Sutherland (@jeffsutherland) have put the heart back into Scrum by introducing a new ‘Scrum Values’ section. Ken and Jeff suggest that by adopting these values not only can you put the life back into Scrum, but you could also change the culture of your entire organisation, and even your life. The Scrum Values they call out are:

  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect
  • Courage

If you’re looking for some values to live your life by, or maybe slightly more modest goals of trying to improve the efficiency of your Scrum team or change the culture of an organisation, then this looks like a pretty good list to go by. At only 142 words, the newly added Values section of The Guide maintains the concise nature of the previous version but will no doubt trigger much interpretation and debate. Fortunately, you can hear what Jeff and Ken really meant thanks to Episode 14 of Scrum Pulse where they discuss why these values are important and the full revision can be found on Page 4 of The Guide, or on Scrum Guide.Org’s Revisions Page.

But why have these values been added now?

Ken explains that whilst the ‘Scrum Values’ section may be new, the values themselves have always been “out there”. They were first articulated in Agile Software Development with Scrum in 2001 (written by Ken and @mikebeedle), but that pre-dates widespread adoption of Scrum and may explain why they have gone unnoticed by many.

In the video, Ken describes these values as “the lifeblood of Scrum” and suggests that without people living these values that the artefacts, events and roles are just an “empty skeleton”. If I reflect on my experiences of Scrum, at times it has definitely felt like some people (at all levels) are going through the motions; just following the ‘process’; that there is no heart or soul; no deep belief that this is a better way. If you’re experiencing that, then maybe adopting these values can give your Scrum a new lease of life. Scrum is not a constricting, detailed step by step process, that tells you exactly how things must be done. It’s a framework, that tells you what to do, but not how to do it. The new Values section clearly highlights the values that people need to sign up to so that Scrum can be brought to life. These values need to be lived and breathed, by all those that are involved in Scrum, and by doing so may go a long way to changing the culture in your team and the wider organisation.

Who is leading the change?

Sometimes Scrum is implemented as a Top Down initiative by someone who’s been brought in to transform the business, react to customer’s needs more quickly and change the culture. Sometimes Scrum is implemented from the Bottom Up, by a team that just want to improve, use the latest methodology, and do the best they can. If you work in a largish organisation it may not be so clear-cut, maybe it’s more from the middle(ish), Down (into your team), Up (into the management layer above), and Across (into different departments). Irrespective of how Scrum is being introduced it’s inevitable that you will find barriers to the change that you’re trying to make. That’s natural, but with Continuous Improvement central to the Scrum framework (as Jeff points out) there is going to be constant, incremental improvements, and that means constant change, so make sure everyone goes into Scrum with their eye’s open and fully committed.

You don’t need to be a Scrum Master to master Scrum.

Scrum is a simple framework, but hard to master. Having a Scrum Master / Coach will no doubt help your adoption of Scrum but don’t rely entirely on them. No matter who is driving the change, where you sit in your company structure I think these values can benefit us all. If you’re a dev adopt them, even if no one else does. If you’re a team lead, adopt them and lead by example. If you’re a C-Level exec become a master of Scrum, adopt Scrum in your C-Level team (it’s not just for the Development Team. Check out this helpful Harvard Business Review article Embracing Agile). By adopting these new values, you can put the heart back into Scrum and lead a cultural revelation. The values tell us what we need to do, but remember it’s a framework so you need to decide how. want to make the world a more successful place…person by person, company by company. If you need an high impact Interim to deliver your change agenda give them a shout here..