Why are some scrum teams successful whilst others struggle to ship working software? The Scrum Alliance defines a scrum team as consisting of a”product owner, the development team, and a scrum master”. While an accurate definition, it offers little in the way of knowing if the team will find success. A successful team, whether it be a sports team, scrum team, or even a family, all share a common set of values. Scrum is anchored around its five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage.
The concept of teamwork is introduced to us early in childhood and follows us through our lives. One of my early lessons on teamwork goes back to a baseball field somewhere in North Mankato, Minnesota in the mid-1980’s. At my request, my mom signed me up to play tee-ball because my all my neighborhood friends played. I was the only girl on my team and played against teams that did not have even one girl on the roster. None of that seemed to matter to me or my friends, we just wanted to play our best and have fun regardless if we won or lost. It’s doubtful that I was the strongest hitter, but that didn’t matter because others on the team were. We were kids who just enjoyed being outside and figured out that if we let each other be good at what we were good at, we might win a game from time to time.
You might be wondering what does tee-ball, a sport that originates from Americas idyllic 1950’s Midwest, have in common with a scrum team? Well, quite a bit if you are curious about if the team is successful. We need not look far beyond our community ball fields.
A strong team is comprised of individuals who are dedicated to each other and to the greater good that brought them together. The players on the team commit to executing the work that needs to be done. They show up every day to play their best and strive to constantly improve.
In our distracted world, it is too easy to lose focus. Strong teams understand that to deliver on their commitments, they need to pay attention and keep their eyes on the ball.
In sports, the term openness is defined as a style of play characterized by action which is spread out over the field. In the context of a scrum team, the players share a value in terms of being frank with each other. Again, this is in the spirit of delivering the greater good. If there is a gap in the team, perhaps in skills, knowledge, discipline, it’s imperative that the team is open to acknowledging it. There is no time and place for secrecy.
It’s difficult to play hard for someone who does not respect you. This is true in sport, business, and personal relationships. Do not confuse respect with likability. The individuals on a healthy team might not like one another, but it’s imperative they respect each other.
The vulnerability can be scary. Making a commitment terrifies some, especially when that little voice whispers “what if I cannot do this”. The truth of the matter is that you might not be able to. But instead of despair, strong teams remember that they are a team. What one individual cannot do might be something the team can.
The most successful teams in both tee-ball and scrum live their values of commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage both on and off the field. Great teams are made up of the participants adhering to and growing these values in a living breathing environment. When success is shipping working software or winning the game teams that are composed of people who are constantly working on each of these values become the teams that ultimately are the most successful.