Scrum Values – a cynical reaction?

Scrum Values – a cynical reaction?

I’ve seen a number of discussions over the last few days around the fact that the Scrum Values have finally been added to the Scrum Guide. On the whole the consensus seems to be that this was obvious and overdue improvement to the guide, to the point where it should perhaps be considered as a ‘bug fix’ rather than an ‘enhancement’. As an aside, the discussions made me think about some of the reactions I see in the field when the Scrum values are introduced and how I interpret those reactions.

I’ve tried a few different ways of introducing the values to teams I’ve worked with over the years. As is the nature of human interactivity, reactions have been mixed.

Unfortunately, with a new team it is not uncommon to see rolling eyes from some, who appear to immediately dismiss openness, courage, respect, focus and commitment as idealistic nonsense. My self-preservation driven response is to get defensive and assume that such cynics are going to be my biggest challenge as a coach in the weeks to come. However, there is often a sadder and far less threatening reason behind the negativity. In reality, it is often the loudest voices evangelising Values that are the ones you should be worried about.

Assumption and all that ….

Some of the people who initially appear to reject the Value based approach turn out to be some of the best ‘Agilists’ I’ve worked with and the rolling eyes I initially noticed were only caused by previous disappointing experiences. In contrast, many of the Value evangelists are in fact offenders of the worst kind and completely hypocritical in their actual actions.

Cynics often inherently live and work by the Values themselves but have become disillusioned by the cultural environment within their workplace and have come to see such Values as the antithesis of their real world.


Do you recognise any of these….

  • Colleagues who cite ‘openness‘ and yet keep back vital snippets of information as future symbols of power
  • Managers who demand ‘focus‘ and yet constantly change requirements to suit their personal agenda
  • Product Owners who expect ‘commitment‘ and then can’t be contacted when clarification is needed
  • A boss who asks you to show ‘courage‘ and then lays the blame firmly at your feet for a failed experiment
  • The team member who wants ‘respect‘ and then goes on to undermine their colleagues at the first opportunity

I’m sure we can all recall examples of such anti-pattern behaviour. to the extent that in some corporate environments I have witnessed resigned amusement at the farcical nature of ‘Values’ being preached whilst bad practice is demonstrated.

So my fellow coaches, the members of your teams who are disillusioned by talk of Values which they don’t see being realised need your help. Don’t be afraid of initial negativity – dig a little deeper and find the root cause – you may be pleasantly surprised at the difference you can make to such broken spirits.

and finally…

The Scrum Values are at the core of my being. I am comfortable with them and what they mean to my approach to both life and work. They are not an empty corporate rallying call but a simple to remember reference for every decision I make.


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