Career Kaizen #7 – The Five Scrum Values

The Five Scrum Values

This week we’ll explore the Scrum values a bit.

Monday – Courage

 agile, agile zen, Career Kaizen, change, commitment, focus, high capacity leaders, Openness, respect, values, Scrum valuesI share a story in my classes about courage. Some years ago, I and my family were visiting Yellowstone National Park. There are bears in Yellowstone, and when we first saw them, I was a bit nervous. I checked to make sure the car doors were securely locked and all windows were up. We were safe. But, just a few weeks later, an old couple came across a bear while on a hike in Yellowstone. It was a mother bear, and in between the couple and the bear was the cub. From 100 yards away, the bear charged. Now, some say that courage is the absence of fear, but I think you should be fearful of a charging bear. It’s the appropriate response. I heard another definition of courage from Erwin McManus that resonated much more deeply – “courage is the absence of self for the sake of others“. In that moment when the bear was charging, the man turned to his wife and said “Run!”, but he stayed put. The husband was killed by the bear, but the wife had enough time to hide behind a log and play dead. The bear still found her. Actually picked her up by her backpack, but then dropped her, and walked off. The husband, in my opinion, was the perfect example of courage – absence of self for the sake of others.

We face lots of challenges in the workplace. It often takes this kind of courage to do what’s best for the team. Instead of looking out for ourselves and our careers, the team members are looking for the type of individuals who are willing to deliver the hard messages, have the crucial conversations, with problem team members, expectant management, and demanding stakeholders.

Homework – Write down the top three items on your mind that make you feel scared, anxious, or give you pause. Why is that? For each of those, write down the worst thing that could happen.


Tuesday – Openness

Openness is core to the Scrum values. Pause and reflect on this fact – we actually stop work and take time to just think and talk as a team. Well, we can have a scheduled meeting that says were supposed to do that, but whether people are open and honest with each other is another thing. How can we help cultivate that ourselves?

One great piece of advice I received a long time ago is to tell people what we’re thinking. Sounds obvious, right? But I don’t mean “what we’re thinking” in the sense of giving a well thought out response. I mean literally what we are thinking. If you are talking with someone and they ask you something that sounds like a big commitment, you might pause and then say, “Well, I don’t have a solid response now. I’m just thinking out loud here, and I’m feeling like that’s big commitment for me because…” At times if there is expectation or time pressure, I might even only share my feelings and nothing else, but still trying to add to the conversation or the “pool of shared meaning” that everyone is around. For example, “I just feel a real hesitation about this, almost an anxiety or sense that ‘yes, but what if…'” I’m being open, even though I don’t have an actual response or statement on something.

Also, cultivate openness by affirming what others share, whether you agree or not. Joe says, “I think you’re idea is doomed to failure!” You reply, “Thank you for sharing. Can you tell me more about that?” In the end, we all benefit by being more open – getting more ideas, getting to the root cause of issues and problems, vetting options through everyone’s opinions, more buy-in from teams. My experience has been that most people don’t need to be right, they just need to be heard.

Homework: Take a look at this discussion of Active Listening.


Wednesday – Focus

Focus has a high place among the Scrum values . The framework gives us a structure that helps us to always know: what’s the most important thing for me to work on today, what’s the immediate goals of our team, how are we doing on those goals, how do we know if we’re done or not, is there anything getting in our way, what are the biggest issues and problems plaguing the team?

Great stuff. And we can apply a lot of this in our own lives as well. For you, what are your immediate goals (not specific to the team’s goals – just your own, or for your life)? How are you doing on these? Personally, I’ve had a lot of help moving the needle on these by using Scrum and kanban for my personal life.

Where do you keep your personal goals? I’ve used Agile Zen and KanbanFlow to list anything that I “should” do, including big goals and small tasks. I (try to) pull only one of these in to work at a time. Okay, Openness, I have 11 in progress right now! But I’m working at it.

I also use a pomodoro to do my work in time boxes, helping me stay focused.

Homework: If you don’t already have a place to keep your goals and priorities, check out kanban flow (or any number of the web and mobile apps out there).


Thursday – Respect

 agile, agile zen, Career Kaizen, change, commitment, focus, high capacity leaders, Openness, respect, values, Scrum values

Respect is one of the Scrum values because we value all team members equally. I don’t value one person’s opinion more because they are more senior, have been there longer, have a certain title. This shows itself in some teams by only leads and seniors being invited to meetings to “save time.” While the numbers may show that we’re saving money by having 3 people in a meeting instead of 7, we miss out on insights and ideas from others, and these don’t depend on rank or position. Also, we sometimes inadvertently alienate others, so that even when we do invite them at other times, they don’t feel as important or cared about, and therefore don’t participate as much, if at all. It can become a downward spiral.

For me, respect is a way of looking for what someone does or is that is estimable. Even if they frustrate or irritate me in some way, many times there can be something that’s good about that very trait. For example, if someone is abrasive and brash, the great thing about this is that she will always tell you what she’s thinking (which is a welcome and refreshing change from the political phrasing and positioning that goes on in much of corporate America).

Homework: Think of someone that you know whom you don’t respect, or perhaps like. Write down three positive qualities of that person. Extra credit: In regards to their bad qualities, in what ways do you do the same thing? 🙂


Video Friday – Commitment

Commitment is scary because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Yet commitment is a powerful, and often required, part of achieving great things.

But if I’m going to invest my blood, sweat and tears in something with someone else, I want to know they’re all in. No matter what the circumstances, what comes up. It’s a bit like what they call a fair-weather friend or fan. Might as well make it explicit and say, “Well, if it doesn’t go perfectly, if anything new comes up at all, or changes, there’s a chance I’ll bail.”

Think of marriage – it’s a commitment. “For better or for worse,” not “let’s see how this goes.” The challenging times that working through tough circumstances to keep a commitment fuel our resolve to fix things – it changes us.

Homework: Take one of your goals and make it public. Tell a friend, tell the team. Post it on Facebook. Even better, make a progress bar and post that as well, and a print out on your cube wall.

Weekend Warrior
Decide which of the five Scrum values you want to extend in your life and do something practical to grow in that area this weekend. Keep it in front of you. Mark the month on your calendar, such as “Commitment August” or “Focus December.” Share this in your next retrospective.


Note: This article about Scrum values was originally posted on Agile Coach and Trainer Scott Dunn’s personal blog, “Software Development and Human Capital: Leadership, Agile and Strengths.”

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