If you’ve ever played rugby, you know what a “scrum” is. For the rest of us, it’s a means of restarting play after a penalty and involves packing the players close together, heads down, as they try to gain control of the ball. Fortunately, we’re not referring to “scrum” in the context of a game where there are not so many winners as there are survivors, but rather as a popular methodology found in the business world.
The Scrum Alliance defines Scrum as “…an [agile] framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.” Scrum consists of sets of values and principles, and that’s what we’re looking at today. We will define what constitutes Scrum values and principles, explore each set, and show how you can quickly assimilate them into your work environment.
If you want to learn more about Scrum itself, check out this tutorial to read all about Scrum teams.
What Are Scrum Values and Principles?
Scrum is built on a foundation of fundamental values, providing a code of ethics and behavior guidelines for Scrum teams. Scrum values give teams the rules of conduct to both embody and live by when using Scrum.
On the other hand, scrum principles are the central guidelines for applying the Scrum framework to your business. The Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK) lays out the guidelines, and they are non-negotiable. It’s all or nothing.
So, Scrum values are responsible for how Scrum teams should behave, and Scrum principles are the road signs showing how to make Scrum function in the organization. Alternately, think of Scrum values as the internal qualities that shape team behavior and principles as the external rules that ensure that Scrum methodology is applied appropriately.
What Are the Five Scrum Values?
According to the Scrum Guide, there are five Scrum values.
- Commitment. Each member of the Scrum team personally commits to achieving the team’s goals. This commitment doesn’t mean just promising to meet deadlines and other benchmarks. Although the commitment does include meeting deadlines, the scope expands far beyond milestones, to the meta-concepts of the organization’s overall cause and vision. It's a commitment to learning, quality, doing their best, and the team and its collaboration.
- Courage. Team members must have the guts to tackle challenging, intimidating problems and do the right thing. It’s easy to take a safe path and avoid risks. Unfortunately, a team that lacks boldness won’t be innovative, creative, or productive. Scrum team members need to have a backbone and not waver in the face of difficult challenges. This courage also extends to supporting Scrum methodology and enacting its values, even when faced with skeptics or detractors.
- Focus. Scrum projects are broken down into time-boxes. Consequently, Scrum teams have from one to four weeks to create a needed product increment. This demand requires absolute focus from the team members to meet their goals as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, distractions abound, and some of them may even seem important enough to address immediately. But Scrum team members must keep their eyes on the prize and power throughout the project.
- Openness. Scrum team members and project stakeholders must keep the lines of communication open and honest. Each side needs to practice full disclosure when discussing the required workload and what challenges it poses. This transparency creates trust between all parties. This value also entails being open to change. Changes come fast and furious in the digital world, as innovations are rolled out, and the old orthodoxy gets tossed out in favor of a new approach. Scrum team members need to be open enough to embrace these changes.
- Respect. Scrum team members must respect each other, including each member’s opinions, experience, and culture. Mutual respect strengthens the bonds between Scrum team members and increases the team’s effectiveness. Members must also spread that respect beyond the team’s boundaries to the users, listening to their concerns and complaints and ensuring that the finished product meets their needs. Scrum team members must respect the fact that sometimes, the clients change their minds or adjust their needs based on circumstances beyond their control.
This chart, courtesy of Scrum.org, clearly sums up the values in an easy to process style.
Bear in mind the Scrum values help teams to build and embrace the agile mindset. It’s the responsibility of the Scrum Master to ensure that everyone is adhering to these values, thereby ensuring a better product release and an overall reinforcement of Scrum methodology.
What Are the Six Scrum Principles?
Scrum has six principles necessary for successfully applying the Scrum framework. Each one must be used, without exception. Accept no substitutes. Team members must keep the principles intact because they help to create and maintain confidence in the Scrum framework while meeting the project’s goals and objectives.
The six principles are:
- Empirical Process Control. Scrum’s core philosophy rests on the foundation of three main ideas: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Rather than relying on a detailed, upfront plan, Scrum decisions are based on experimentation and observation.
- Self-Organization. Scrum team members produce more when they self-organize, as opposed to being micromanaged and led by the nose. An independent Scrum team means a better buy-in and a shared ownership. This principle fosters a creative and innovative environment that promotes growth.
- Collaboration. The collaboration principle revolves around three core dimensions: awareness, articulation, and appropriation. This principle also defines project management as a shared value-creation process that relies on teams working together and interacting to produce the best results.
- Value-Based Prioritization. The Scrum team must prioritize tasks based on their importance and value to both the end-users and company goals. This prioritization is a continually evolving process that starts at the beginning of the project and continues until its successful completion.
- Time-Boxing. Time is a finite, precious resource. The time-boxing principle schedules and allocates particular amounts of time for the different activities. Time allocation helps manage the planning and execution of the project more effectively. Scrum’s time-boxed elements include
- Sprints: (work-related release cycles 2-4 weeks long)
- Sprint planning meetings: (1-2 hours for task determination)
- Daily standup meetings: (about 15 minutes long for task discussion and monitoring)
- Sprint review meetings: (a 1–2-hour evaluation of tasks and release cycles)
- Iterative Development. Scrum project requirements are always evolving and changing, requiring constant adjustment and revision. This principle emphasizes how to manage these changes more productively and effectively, resulting in products that better serve the customer’s needs. Consequently, the software development activities in the Scrum framework must be repeated, revisited, and reworked.
This chart, courtesy of Scrumstudy.com, illustrates the six Scrum principles in a clear, easy to read format.
How to Apply These Concepts Immediately
The more you learn about Scrum values and principles, the clearer it becomes that any organization wishing to implement it must be “all in” and not do things piecemeal or halfway.
With that in mind, the best way to quickly apply these concepts to your organization is for your team to familiarize itself with Scrum. Since you’re reading this article, you’re already well on your way! Once you understand Scrum values and principles, adopt the framework for your workplace’s benefit. If you’re aware of an upcoming software project, for example, then plan ahead by learning about Scrum and getting the framework in place before the actual work begins.
Everyone must be committed to the Scrum team, and the entire team must be committed to following the whole procedure. Scrum’s values and principles are hardly unique to today’s workplace. Still, it’s bringing together these elements and turning them into a workable Scrum that sets it apart from merely telling everyone, “Okay, from now on, we’re going to resolve to communicate better.” This methodology isn’t a salad bar or buffet table; you don’t pick and choose which values and principles you want to incorporate.
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