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Obey the principles without being bound by them

If I interpret Bruce Lee’s quote “Obey the principles without being bound by them” from my learning in scrum, I would quote “Be true to scrum values while continuing to inspect and adapt”


Commitment is a scrum value and in my last CSM (Certified Scrum Master class) 27 participants joined from 9 countries. I invited our participants to draw an image of what comes to mind when you hear the word “commitment”. The result was mind blowing. I saw an array of “masterpiece” drawings – Wedding rings, holding hands, parents with children, sports teams and more. Before I could “share” what commitment means for a scrum team, they had already figured it out. We are visual in our thinking and images have a powerful effect on learning where any amount of written or spoken words cannot compare. Everyone has heard the quote “An image is worth a 1000 words”. Brain science proves this and once participants visualize scrum values it is a super power they add to their long term memory and use it to help their scrum teams continuously improve.


“Super Power” huh! what does that mean? How can Scrum Values be a super power?


In 2006 I was aware of Agile mostly in terms of engineering practices made famous by Extreme programming XP, I had never heard of Scrum or XP values, neither had I heard of the scrummaster role. I was a development manager leading a client on-boarding product in Merrill Lynch in New York. The product was being delivered using traditional waterfall and roles. About six months before I joined the Managing Director running technical teams had promised business stakeholders that this new product would be innovative, replace the current system and will be delivered in 3 months! By the time I joined there was no trust between business stakeholders and technology leadership, Development team was working around 16 hours a day and architecture and design were being discussed without a single line of code written.


As a leader I initiated a few changes almost immediately, we agreed with stakeholders that we will deliver a monthly release” available for them to test and make a decision to make it available to their users. Some of the initial months we will deliver alpha and beta releases for them to provide feedback and further direction. There will be full “openness” and collaboration between all groups. The development team rallied around this common goal which they had agreed to before I proposed the change. The goal helped everyone to “focus” on the monthly delivery. Any and all impediments, delays and feedback were communicated with “courage” by all. Due to complete “openness” and “courage”, trust, empathy and “respect” grew. “Commitment” grew, everyone started backing each other and everyone was committed to the team’s goal. The stakeholders become patient with issues they found, the development team had the autonomy on how to build and no one told them how long they need to work in a day. The development team thrived and so did the product which eventually was “released” several times with great quality and value for our customers.

Once I learnt Scrum, it connected me with my past experience. Scrum values apply to everyone in the organization including leadership as well as stakeholders and the scrum team.


As a scrummaster, one way you can use this super power…

In a retrospective use large post-its with each of the 5 scrum values, ask the scrum team to share with post-its under each value where a value was upheld in the current sprint and where a value was violated? After the data is gathered, ask powerful questions why they think the value was upheld or violated. Discuss with every member contributing and collaborating. The team insights will guide everyone how to improve and support each other.


Can you share a story where Scrum values helped you help your team as a scrummaster?


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