Courage is an easy thing to understand. It’s also incredibly hard for people to fully embrace when we are dealing with the Scrum Values. As before, I want to start by looking at the one sentence in the Scrum Guide that applies:
“The Scrum Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems.”
There is it in a nutshell. Do the right thing, and work on tough problems. THere’s a whole lot more below the surface of that sentence, though.
When we talk about team members doing the right thing, there is an implied “even when it’s hard” at the end:
- We have the courage to not revert to old habits when work is challenging.
- We have the courage to not take shortcuts and get work done quickly simply for the sake of getting it done quickly.
- We have the courage to ask difficult questions when we don’t have all of the information we need to build a product.
- We have the courage to adapt to change.
- We have the courage to trust the entire Scrum Team.
- We have the courage to do everything in our power to meet our forecast and stick to the Definition of Done.
- We have the courage to commit.
- We have the courage to be honest about our work.
- We have the courage to listen to what others on our team are saying, even when we don’t want to hear it.
- We have the courage to fail, and the courage to admit it.
Some of the biggest issues I have seen with teams who are struggling with Scrum all come down to courage. It’s very easy to fall back into familiar patterns, and even easier to point fingers when things don’t work.
The ceremonies of the Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, and Retrospective all require courage. For Scrum to succeed, we must be able to talk about things that aren’t going well, and come up with ways to fix them. We have to be willing to show the cracks in our armor to the team, and trust that the team will help us to overcome obstacles.
Showing work in the Sprint Review takes a huge amount of courage. We accept that we might get feedback that we may not like, and we go into the meeting only prepared to show work that has met our Definition of Done. We are not going to show our stakeholders (and each other) work that is half-finished and we are going to hand-wave past the incomplete parts. We also aren’t going to show stakeholders a chunk of code they don’t necessarily understand; we will only show them work as our users will see it.
We are willing to have an honest discussion every day to inspect our progress toward our Sprint Goals and adapt our plan if we are off track. We have a cross-functional team that is willing to jump into work they may know little about and get it done, as a team. We are willing to be honest in our Retrospectives and discuss ways we can be a better team. We do this without throwing our teammates under the bus, but are willing to share in our failures as much as we are willing to celebrate our successes.
Scrum takes a tremendous amount of personal and team courage. The courage demanded by Scrum allows us to shine a bright light on every aspect of what we do, to look at it clearly, and always find ways to make improvements.