Scrum Values: A Courage Crisis?

Randy Hale

When was the last time you had to be courageous? In the face of team conflict? In dealing with challenging stakeholders or customers? Perhaps in dealing with organizational leaders who had no interest in your stance on ‘protecting the team’?

I talk with a lot of ScrumMasters – and I’m noticing a disturbing trend. I hope it’s an anomaly, but I fear it’s a much more broad pattern. Many ScrumMasters are facing great difficulty in driving the broader change that is needed for their teams, and Scrum overall, to be successful.

ScrumMasters are change agents. ScrumMasters exist in large part to remove impediments so their teams can make the journey to high performance. Removing impediments certainly includes things like making sure the team has the proper tools; access to environments; and yes, even at times making sure they have lunch. But that is far, far from an exhaustive list of impediments that ScrumMasters face on behalf of their teams.

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The most disturbing pattern I’m seeing is the impediment where fundamental support is lacking from individuals in senior roles within companies. Notice that I did not refer to these individuals as ‘leaders’. This is very intentional.

I recently heard an anecdote from a colleague detailing how a senior-level person was lamenting that they “didn’t want a ScrumMaster who was going to come to them asking for a lot of changes – just run the process.” I’ll leave the ‘process’ comment for another discussion, but how frightening is it to think of just how many people who share this mindset exist within ‘leadership’ positions across the corporate landscape?

This is where courage is required.

It takes courage to deal with someone in a leadership position who is unable to demonstrate the leadership necessary to take even the smallest steps to remove barriers to a team’s journey to high performance. Unfortunately, many ScrumMasters fail to engage to try to bring about change in support of their teams. I’ve talked to many ScrumMasters who have stated that they only focus on working with the team, dealing with management is “not my job”. That is fundamentally not true.

As a ScrumMaster you are a servant leader and a change agent. Take stock of what you need to display the courage to address the larger impediments to team performance. A great first step is to just reach out to the broader Scrum community. There are literally thousands of Scrum practitioners who have run into similar situations that you’re facing. Find these people. Exchange ideas. Try something new. If that doesn’t work, try something different.

Don’t ever just throw your hands up and continue to accept status quo if the status quo is causing your team great frustration and inhibiting their ability to excel. If you’ve tried everything and you’re at the end of your rope, reach out to your Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). Even if it’s been over a year, or two years, or five years. Nobody wants to see you succeed more than they do!

The key to courage is having the confidence that you stand for something. Something as important as transforming the world of work. That is a goal all Scrum practitioners share and we’re all in this together!

Now for a little introspection.

Do you know the Scrum values?  Can you list them off the top of your head?  More importantly, are you living them?  ALL of them?  Consistently?

If you didn’t answer ‘yes’ to all of the questions above – take stake of the Scrum values and commit to take action so that next time you reflect on these questions, the answers are in fact ‘yes’ to all!

  • Focus
    Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
  • Courage
    Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
  • Openness
    As we work together, we express how we’re doing, what’s in our way, and our concerns so they can be addressed.
  • Commitment
    Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.
  • Respect
    As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.

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Randy HaleRandy Hale

Randy Hale is a passionate change leader with deep experience in Enterprise Agile Effectiveness, Product Development Strategy, Agile Product Management and Agile Delivery Methodologies. 

Randy has experience ranging from enterprise agile transformation, product strategy and implementation for global Fortune 500 companies, to digital consumer solutions for both internet startups and Fortune 500 clients, to driving strategic organizational, cultural and process change in support of faster product time-to-market, increased customer satisfaction, and accelerated revenue recognition.