Project Management Methods

Scrum Values: From Theory to Practice

Author
Anastasia Wranek
Last update
28. Sep 2023

Rules and values are the glue that holds our world together. They give guidelines and a framework for everyday life, whether at home or in the office. In addition, they help us to formulate expectations and make decisions. The same holds true for Scrum values.

Scrum values mark the boundaries and capabilities of the agile project management method. This approach relies heavily on teamwork and performance. But what are its values and what kind of impact do they have? In this article, we looked at the five Scrum values and will let you know how teams can use them in practice.

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What Are Scrum Values and Which Ones Are There?

Scrum finds solutions to complex problems and creates high-value products in the most efficient manner possible. The agile collaboration framework was conceptualized by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, two experienced software developers.

The pair published the first Scrum Guide in 2010. It's intended to give businesses a clearer understanding of Scrum and help them become proficient in it. For project teams that use Scrum, this guide has become something like a sacred text. It includes all information, guidelines, and explanations that are needed for Scrum, as well as its values. The Scrum Guide should help teams adopt agile mindsets and fully utilize the project management approach.

The Scrum Guide is available online for free.

Scrum's creators list five values that users must become proficient in for the approach to be successful. For businesses, internalization of these will foster an environment in which teams can productively collaborate:

  • Commitment

  • Focus

  • Openness

  • Respect

  • Courage

Below, we'll discuss each of these values in greater detail.

1.

Commitment

In the world of Scrum, commitment means that all team members are on the same page about the sprint's goals. Said differently: Every team member does their utmost to ensure that shared goals are achieved and contributes as much as possible towards their realization. Team members also commit themselves to help and support one another, and grow together.

This can also be interpreted as a sort of responsibility: Team members take on a specific task, and see it through to completion. Tasks should be completed to a high standard and according to schedule.

2.

Focus

All team members are aware of the project's priorities and concentrate on its most important aspects. This helps the team allocate its energy and resources towards the achievement of goals in the most efficient way possible and ensures the highest chances of success.

For this to happen, clear goals must be set and team members allowed to concentrate their efforts on them. Sprint tasks should have the highest priority. At the same time, focus also means that the customer's needs and the quality of the "Increment" are kept in mind.

3.

Openness

Openness is a cornerstone of Scrum. When communication is clear and transparent, all participants can easily understand the challenges, progress, or ideas around them.

Opinions should be voiced freely, feedback given and taken, and all participants engage in an open exchange of ideas. This doesn't just apply to how teams communicate internally, but also between participants and stakeholders.

Here, it can help to remember that Scrum is all about continuous development and change. Teams should be open to new ideas and adjustments and willing to implement them at any time. This requires some mental flexibility and a willingness to quickly adapt.

When a team embraces this value, problems and challenges are easy to identify. This makes it possible to find effective solutions so that the sprint goal won't be jeopardized or endangered.

Open Retrospectives

Openness is particularly important during the "Sprint Retrospective", one of the most important Scrum events. You can read more about it and all of the other four Scrum events in our article here:

4.

Respect

What is the foundation for every successful relationship? Respect! It isn't surprising that this is one of the five Scrum values. All team members should treat each other respectfully and appreciate one another's efforts, regardless of their opinion or status.

Trust, the other key to successful relationships, goes hand-in-hand with respect: Team members should take each other seriously, support one another in difficult situations, and have healthy discussions.

The importance and value of each individual are recognized and the team works together on a professional level. This makes it possible for different approaches to exist in tandem, and for team members to value what each of their colleagues brings to the table.

5.

Courage

The final Scrum value is courage. In an agile work environment where change is a constant, courage is an absolute must. Courage goes hand-in-hand with a certain willingness to experiment and try things that have never been considered or attempted before. At the very least, teams will have to occasionally leave their comfort zones.

Team members also need to be ready and willing to take risks and make difficult decisions. During these, team members should stand by their ideas, as well as accept and learn from mistakes and failures.

Scrum Values: What Advantages Do These Offer?

The five basic Scrum values help teams develop an agile mindset. This brings significant advantages in terms of efficiency and productivity, as well as a few other aspects:

  • Improved teamwork and communication

  • Prioritization of tasks and goals

  • More effective problem-solving and conflict resolution

  • Greater flexibility and timely mastery of changes

  • More trust, respect, and appreciation within teams

  • An environment that encourages experimentation and innovation

  • Increased employee motivation through acceptance of more personal responsibility

  • Strengthened team spirit

From Theory to Practice: Scrum Values in the Real World

To benefit from Scrum, you'll need to put its values into practice. Every team member must live and be proficient in them.

Common Understanding of Scrum Values

When a team decides to utilize Scrum, it should start with an internalization of the system's values. But what happens when these are introduced and not accepted or put into practice? Most of the time, team members develop their own understanding and interpretation of each - Needless to say, misunderstandings and chaos can quickly ensue.

This doesn't help anyone, since the entire purpose of Scrum is to promote teamwork and get all participants on the same figurative page. For that reason, if you'd like to implement Scrum in your organization or business, its values need to be intensively discussed, so that a common understanding of them can be reached. This step is, in and of itself, a commitment.

Equally important to this discussion are practical examples of how the values are reflected or evidenced in daily work. This makes them easier to comprehend and reference. Questions that might arise during such a discussion include:

  • What does this value mean to each of us?

  • How can it be implemented?

  • How can we ensure that we embrace this value?

  • How will we, as a team, benefit from this value?

A visual representation of Scrum values, such as a poster or graphic, might be helpful here. This can serve as a constant reminder of specific values and provide a frame of reference. If your organization adopts this approach, make sure that it's visible and placed in a high-traffic area. Alternatively, a digital version can be pinned prominently to your team's web dashboard or interface.

How To Tell if a Team Embraces Scrum Values?

When a team is proficient in a particular value, it's time to put it into practice. It's not enough to just talk about the values once and then be done with them. Instead, they should be visible and used on a daily basis. This, in turn, will indicate whether the team has internalized the Scrum mindset and actively embraces its values.

But how can you tell if a team actually does this? Below, we've prepared an overview to help:

Commitment

Signs that the value is practiced

Signs that the value is not practiced

The team meets its goals on time and according to schedule

The team constantly pushes promised backlog items back or further down the queue

When a problem arises, team members support one another

Team members fend for themselves when they encounter difficulty

All team members take responsibility

The team doesn't meet appointments or deadlines

The team organizes itself

Team members blame their shortcomings on external factors

The team demonstrates a high degree of motivation

Team members rarely take the initiative

Focus

Signs that the value is practiced

Signs that the value is not practiced

The team uses a timebox during Scrum events

Team members juggle multiple tasks and assignments at the same time

Goals are achieved through the completion of smaller tasks and assignments

Non-Sprint targets interfere with the achievement of sprint goals

Team members concentrate on what is prioritized

The team is constantly sidetracked by external developments or emergencies

The team has a common understanding of goals and the Definition of Done

Clear priorities exist

Openness

Signs that the value is practiced

Signs that the value is not practiced

The team communicates with stakeholders

Results and achievements are not communicated

The team flexibly adapts to change

Team members gossip behind each other's backs

Open and honest communication are emphasized

Team members have varying levels of knowledge and understanding

Progress is transparently discussed

Old habits continue because "That's how we've always done things"

There is a feedback culture

The team is open to experimentation

Respect

Signs that the value is practiced

Signs that the value is not practiced

Team members value one another

Certain people and/or their opinions are preferred

The team works together to solve conflicts

Bullying and resentment are common

There's no discrimination and all team members are treated with equality

Certain team members cannot work with one another

An atmosphere of trust prevails

No team cohesion

Unresolved conflicts and tension strain the team

Courage

Signs that the value is practiced

Signs that the value is not practiced

The team tries new processes and approaches

The team does not experiment

Team members embrace innovation and change

Team members are risk-adverse

Team members constantly develop further

The team is afraid of change

Open discussion and new ideas are actively encouraged

Team members repeat past mistakes and never learn from them

Hints: How to Put Scrum Values

There are several things you can do to encourage an agile mindset in your organization or business. These include:

Create a Transparent Work Environment

  • Encourage open communication and a free exchange of information and ideas

  • Promote a feedback culture among teams

  • Use tools that make progress more transparent

  • Communicate openly, especially during the Sprint Review

  • Set clear goals and jointly define the criteria for success

  • Inform your managers about Scrum's values, so that they can better understand these and support your team in their implementation

Regularly Consult the Values

  • Use Sprint Retrospectives to jointly analyze achievements, shortcomings, and changes within your Scrum team and see how they reflect proficiency in Scrum values

  • Take steps to more firmly anchor Scrum values in your team's daily routine

Focus on Sprint Goals and Create Value for Clients

  • Prioritize tasks and assignments based on their benefit to your customer

  • Minimize distractions and reduce unnecessary complexity

  • Emphasize concentration and quick decision-making

  • Use a timebox to stay focussed during events

Respect and Teamwork

  • Value individual abilities and opinions

  • Encourage the team to constructively address conflicts

  • Train team members on how to give constructive feedback

  • Improve teamwork through teambuilding exercises and events

Conclusion

Scrum's five values, commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage help teams adopt an agile mindset and work approach. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, Scrum's creators, chose these five values not because they look good on paper, but so that teams can use them in practice.

The development of a common understanding is just the first step: Scrum's values can only thrive in a transparent work environment where they're used and referenced on a daily basis. With the right approach and our tips, you can support your team and help to establish and implement Scrum's values in practice. Once achieved, you should see teamwork within your organization or business reach the next level.

FAQs

What are the five Scrum values?

The five Scrum values are commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage. These help to create an optimal basis for agile mindsets and processes.

What are the 12 Scrum principles?

The Agile Manifesto (for software development) lists 12 Scrum principles. This document serves as the basis for Scrum and all other agile frameworks. Its principles detail how agile software development functions in practice. You can view it as a process model that contains instructions for real-world use and agile work.

Are Scrum values and principles the same thing?

No, there are five Scrum values and 12 Scrum principles. The principles can be found in the Agile Manifesto and provide a basis for any type of agile software development. Scrum's values, on the other hand, come from the Scrum Guide and are necessary to work with the framework. In practice, both help to develop agile processes and an agile mindset.

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Anastasia Wranek studied business psychology and worked for several years as a project and process manager. Her specialties are organizational and personnel development as well as IT project management. As a freelance author, she mainly writes on the topics of project management, agility and new work.
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