Back view of a businessperson at a crossroads with multiple winding paths and text overlay '5 Ways to Advocate the Scrum Values for Project Managers

5 Ways to Advocate the Scrum Values for Project Managers

By: Hajime Estanislao, PMP, CSM

Are you ready to transform the way you manage projects and lead your team? Dive into the world of Scrum, the Agile framework that is revolutionizing project management across industries. With its core values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect, Scrum is not just a methodology— it is a pathway to creating highly effective, adaptive, and cohesive teams.

Whether you are a seasoned Project Manager, an aspiring Scrum Master, or a team member eager to contribute meaningfully to your projects, understanding and living these Scrum values can elevate your work to new heights.

If you want to boost your project outcomes, enhance team dynamics, and lead with more empathy and efficiency, let us explore how the Scrum values are your guide.

Join us in this article and discover actionable insights and practical strategies that empower you and your team to achieve unparalleled success. Are you ready to embrace the change?

What is Scrum and the Five Scrum Values?

Scrum Framework

Scrum is an Agile framework designed for teams to break down complex projects into manageable pieces, allowing for flexibility, collaboration, and rapid adjustments based on feedback. It structures the work into cycles called Sprints, typically lasting two to four weeks, where a set of features or products is planned, developed, tested, and reviewed. Scrum emphasizes team collaboration, regular reflection on work processes, and continuous improvement. It is particularly effective when requirements change, enabling teams to deliver value quickly and efficiently.

The Five Scrum Values

So, what are the Scrum Values? They are commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. Below are the descriptions of the Scrum Values.

Commitment

Commitment is about dedicating oneself fully to the Scrum team and the goals set for each Sprint. It is not just about meeting deadlines; commitment is about being genuinely invested in delivering value and achieving success as a collective agile team. Commitment fosters a culture of reliability and accountability, and it is an essential aspect of the team’s progress to ensure project deliverables are complete according to the definition of done.

Courage

Courage in Scrum embodies the agile team’s strength to tackle challenging tasks, voice concerns, and innovate despite uncertainty. Courage is about embracing change, confronting impediments, and making tough decisions for the greater good of the project, even when it is easier to maintain the status quo. A Scrum team member lacking courage may pose challenges to the project; as project managers and Scrum masters, it is imperative to establish a psychologically safe environment for any team member to share ideas and grow together.

Focus

Focus is the Scrum value that ensures the agile team members direct their efforts and attention on the tasks and the Sprint goals. Focus is about minimizing distractions and prioritizing work that contributes directly to the project objectives, ensuring efficient and effective progress toward achieving desired outcomes. Scrum Masters assist in maintaining the focus by being servant leaders.

Openness

Openness in Scrum is about being transparent in communication and receptive to feedback. It involves sharing successes and setbacks and fostering an environment where learning from each other is valued. This openness leads to continuous improvement and strengthens the trust among Scrum team members.

Respect

Respect underpins the interactions within a Scrum team, where each Scrum team member acknowledges and values the contributions of others. Respect fosters a supportive atmosphere where diversity in skills and perspectives is considered an asset. Respect ensures that collaboration is effective and team dynamics are positive.

"Rugby team in huddle on a sunlit field representing teamwork with a vintage filter, illustrating the concept behind the term 'Scrum'."

History of the Term “Scrum”

The term “Scrum” was inspired by the game of rugby, where it signifies a team working together to move the ball down the field. Introduced in a 1986 Harvard Business Review article by Takeuchi and Nonaka, “Scrum” was adopted to describe a flexible and holistic product development strategy where a team works as a unit to reach a common goal.

Agile Methodologies Similar to the Scrum methodology

Kanban

Kanban is an Agile methodology that, like Scrum, focuses on continuous delivery and emphasizes efficiency and flexibility. While Scrum divides work into time-boxed sprints, Kanban visualizes work on a Kanban board, allowing teams to see the flow of tasks from start to finish. Tasks are pulled through the system based on the team’s capacity, promoting a steady workflow and enabling adjustments in real-time. Scrum and Kanban encourage regular reflection and optimization of the work process, though Kanban offers more fluidity in task management without the fixed sprint structure.

Some agile teams employ Scrum and Kanban, which are called Scrumban, and provide experiences from both worlds.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme Programming is another Agile framework that shares Scrum’s goal of producing high-quality software rapidly and responsively. XP focuses more intensely on engineering practices and the development process, including pair programming, test-driven development, and continuous integration. While Scrum primarily addresses project management aspects, XP and Scrum complement each other by ensuring that, alongside effective project management, the technical execution and quality of the product are emphasized, promoting a holistic approach to software development.

Lean Software Development

Inspired by lean manufacturing principles, Lean Software Development aims to maximize value and minimize waste, principles that resonate with the Scrum methodology’s emphasis on efficiency and adaptability. Lean focuses on delivering value to the customer through optimizing resources, eliminating unnecessary tasks, and improving the development process. While Scrum provides a structured framework for managing work in sprints, Lean offers a broader philosophical approach to agile project management methodology, emphasizing continuous improvement and the elimination of waste throughout the development process.

Scrum and the Other Agile Methodologies

Scrum shares with these Agile methodologies a core emphasis on adaptability, team collaboration, and customer value. While each methodology has its unique practices and focuses, they all aim to address the challenges of traditional, rigid project management by using agile frameworks and promoting flexibility, rapid iteration, and continuous feedback. Scrum’s structure of sprints, roles, and ceremonies provides a clear framework that can be complemented by the technical practices of XP, the flow efficiency of Kanban, or the waste-reduction principles of Lean. Together, these methodologies offer a comprehensive toolkit for teams seeking to implement Agile principles in their project work, allowing for customization based on the specific needs and contexts of the project and team.

"Close-up of a person's hand arranging sticky notes on a blue board for a Scrum planning session with text 'Reasons You Need to Understand the Scrum Values'."

Reasons You Need to Understand the Scrum Values

Commitment

A development team agrees to deliver a set of features by the end of a Sprint. Despite unforeseen challenges, the team reorganizes its workload, stays focused, and puts in the extra effort required to meet the Sprint goal, demonstrating its commitment to the project’s success and each other. Led by a Scrum Master, the development team progresses through committed project deliverables while aligned to the agile and scrum principles.

Reasons You Need to Know Commitment

Understanding the value of commitment in Scrum is relevant because it ensures that everyone on the agile team is dedicated to the Sprint goals and to delivering value to the customer. 

  • It fosters a culture of reliability and accountability.
  • Ensures that Scrum teams prioritize and focus on the work that matters most.
  • Builds trust within the cross-functional team and with stakeholders by consistently meeting expectations and customer needs.

Courage

During a Sprint planning meeting, a team member expressed concerns about the feasibility of completing a high-priority feature within the Sprint. The team discusses the issue openly, reevaluates their approach, and communicates the situation to the Product Owner, showing courage in addressing challenges directly.

Reasons You Need to Know Courage

Courage is a fundamental Scrum value because it empowers teams to face challenges head-on and fosters an environment where innovation and honesty are valued.

  • Courage promotes transparency and honesty about the state of the work and any obstacles faced.
  • Empower team members to take risks that can lead to innovative solutions, which is an integral part of continuous improvement.
  • Strengthens the resolve and confidence to tackle problems.

Focus

A Scrum team decides to limit work-in-progress and product backlog and declines any new tasks until their current Sprint commitments are met. This focus allows them to deliver a high-quality product increment without overextending themselves.

Reasons You Need to Know Focus

Focus is vital in Scrum as it directs the energy and efforts on the most important, ensuring effective use of time and resources.

  • Enhances productivity by minimizing distractions and multitasking. Focus leads to team progress, and as a Scrum Master, I know that it is imperative to advocate and help the team maintain focus.
  • Focus helps achieve a higher quality of work by allowing team members to concentrate on fewer tasks at a time.
  • It leads to more predictable Sprint outcomes by keeping the team aligned with the Sprint goals.

Openness

After a failed Sprint, the team discusses what went wrong during retrospectives. They share their insights and learnings, creating an action plan to improve their process and showing openness to learn from mistakes.

Reasons You Need to Know Openness

Openness fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability in Scrum teams.

  • Promotes a learning environment where mistakes are considered opportunities for individual team members and Scrum Masters to grow.
  • Openness facilitates communication and collaboration within the organization of the agile teams and with stakeholders.
  • Enables the team to adapt to changes swiftly by being open to feedback and new ideas.

Respect

In a diverse team, members have different skill sets and cultural backgrounds. They acknowledge each other’s strengths and contributions, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard during meetings, which leads to innovative solutions and a stronger, more cohesive team.

Reasons You Need to Know Respect

Respect is the foundation of a positive team dynamic in Scrum, enhancing collaboration and the well-being of team members.

  • Builds a supportive and inclusive team environment where diversity is valued.
  • Encourages mutual support and understanding, which are critical for overcoming challenges.
  • Enhances team performance, cohesion, and morale by ensuring every member feels valued and respected. "Stack of grey blocks ascending in steps with letters spelling out 'SCRUM VALUES' in a minimalistic design."

Steps in Advocating the Scrum Values

Advocating for the Scrum Values and the Scrum Framework as a Project Manager, Servant Leader, and Scrum Master is a vital process that enhances team dynamics, project success, and the overall health of the work environment. 

Embody the Values Yourself (as a team member or as a Scrum Master)

Lead by example. Embrace and live the Scrum values in your daily actions and interactions. Your team will look to you as a model, so you must demonstrate commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

To effectively advocate the Scrum values, start with yourself. Reflect on your daily practices to ensure they align with the values you wish to promote. For commitment, show dedication to the team’s goals; for courage, don’t shy away from difficult conversations or decisions; for focus, prioritize Sprint’s objectives; for openness, be transparent about challenges; and for respect, value each team member’s contributions. Your behavior sets the tone for the other Scrum team member’s adoption of the values and culture.

Facilitate Open Discussions with the Scrum Teams

Create opportunities for your team to discuss what each Scrum value means to them and how these can be integrated into their workflow. Encourage sharing of personal experiences and examples where living these values led to positive outcomes.

Encourage your team to engage in open discussions about the Scrum values by setting aside time during team meetings or creating dedicated sessions. Ask team members to share instances where they felt a particular value was critical to their success or where more focus on a value could have improved the outcome. This practice deepens the team’s understanding of the values and encourages personal connection to them.

Recognize and Reinforce the Scrum Values in Traditional and Agile Teams

Acknowledge and celebrate instances where team members exhibit the Scrum values. It could be through verbal praise in meetings, written recognition in team communications, or more formal reward systems. Reinforcement of the Scrum values contributes to process improvement; the three-step “start-stop-continue” process leads to the action items self-organizing teams may take.

Actively look for and highlight instances where Scrum team members demonstrate the Scrum values. This could be as simple as thanking a team member for their openness during a difficult discussion or highlighting a team’s commitment after achieving a challenging Sprint goal. Public recognition makes individuals feel valued and reinforces the desired behaviors among Scrum team members.

Incorporate Values into Retrospectives

Use Sprint Retrospectives to reflect on what went well or could be improved in project work. Discuss challenges to living these values and brainstorm solutions as a team.

During Sprint Retrospectives, dedicate a segment to reflect on the Scrum values. Ask questions like, “How did we demonstrate quality development of the feature during this Sprint?” or “What can we do to embody servant leadership in our next Sprint?” Integrating the values deeply into the ways of working encourages continuous improvement.

Educate and Inspire the Scrum Team

Educate your team about the importance of the Scrum values through workshops, training sessions, or informal discussions. Share resources, stories, Scrum artifacts, or examples from other successful teams and organizations that illustrate the impact of these values in action. The Scrum guide is also available online, which can be a gold mine for aspiring agile project managers.

To inspire your team, share educational materials, stories, and examples highlighting the Scrum values. It might include articles, case studies, or inviting speakers from organizations that exemplify these values. Facilitate workshops or training sessions focused on developing skills and behaviors that align with the Scrum values, ensuring that your team understands these principles intellectually so they can be implemented in their daily work.

By following these steps, you will advocate for the Scrum values and promote a culture where these principles are lived daily, leading to enhanced team collaboration, project success, and a nurturing work environment.

"Professional presenting a flowchart on a whiteboard to attentive colleagues in a modern office setting, highlighting 'Key Considerations for Embodying the Scrum Values'."

Key Considerations for Embodying the Scrum Values

Successfully integrating the Scrum values as a Project Manager requires more than just understanding and advocating for these principles; it demands a deep, personal commitment to fostering an environment where these values can thrive. One consideration is creating a culture of psychological safety, where team members feel secure in sharing their thoughts, challenges, and failures without fear of retribution, is relevant for the Scrum values to take root and flourish. This environment encourages openness, fosters mutual respect, and enables the team to navigate challenges with courage and commitment.

Another essential factor is the continuous reflection and adaptation of your leadership style. As your team and project evolve, so should your approach to embodying and promoting the Scrum values. It might mean adopting different strategies to encourage participation from quieter team members or finding new ways to celebrate achievements that resonate more meaningfully with your agile team members. Being adaptable and responsive to the needs of your team members is key to maintaining the relevance and impact of the Scrum values over time.

Don’t overlook the power of feedback. Regularly seeking and acting upon feedback regarding your leadership and the team’s adherence to the Scrum values is vital for improvement. It not only demonstrates your commitment to these values but also reinforces the culture of growth and development that is central to Scrum. By integrating these considerations into your role as a Project Manager, you will be equipped to lead and manage projects while ensuring the Scrum values in your team’s operations. Managing complex projects requires many agile frameworks and traditional methods, organization skills, the ability to prevent scope creep, and the commitment to solving tough problems, which remain vital in the career and profession of a project manager.

"Collection of magnifying glasses focusing on terms like 'Agile,' 'Scrum,' 'Lean,' and others, symbolizing the exploration of Agile methodologies."

The Next Level: More Agile Methodologies

Taking your Agile journey beyond the Scrum Framework opens a world of methodologies that can complement and enhance your team’s agility, catering to different project needs and team dynamics. Exploring these methodologies broadens your Agile toolkit and equips you with versatile strategies to tackle challenges.

  • Kanban is a method that emphasizes continuous delivery without overloading team members. Its flexible approach to managing work by visualizing tasks on a board allows teams to see the flow of work and adjust in real-time, making it ideal for projects requiring ongoing maintenance or those with changing priorities. Work in progress is highlighted in the Kanban methodology, properly establishing a visual flow that teams follow. The product owner manages the product backlog, but the team delivers value from the WIPs.
  • Lean Development focuses on creating more value for customers with fewer resources by identifying and eliminating waste at every step of the production process. It’s useful for teams looking to optimize efficiency and improve product value, emphasizing speed and economy. The path to reduce waste is challenging and is no different within the confines of agile development. It is relevant to seek self-organization, and as a Scrum Master, I advocate servant leadership that supports the desired outcome of having lean teams and processes.
  • XP enhances development through pair programming, test-driven development (TDD), and continuous integration. XP improves product quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements, making it a strong choice for projects where quality and flexibility are priorities.

By integrating knowledge of these Agile methodologies with a foundation in Scrum, you can tailor your agile project management approach to better fit the unique needs of your team and project, leveraging the strengths of each method to achieve superior results.

"Business executive holding a transparent futuristic tablet with charts and text 'My Experience,' implying a summary of Scrum values application."

Wrapping Up and My Experience with the Scrum Values

We’ve delved into the heart of what makes Scrum so powerful for teams worldwide. From fostering commitment to encouraging openness, each value creates a collaborative, dynamic, and respectful team environment.

Therefore, you may be a project manager, a product owner, a Scrum Master, or a Scrum Project Manager hybrid of sorts. No matter what your role is, the Scrum values offer relevant insights for managing work, improving open communication, promoting a psychologically safe working environment, and gaining confidence in your decision-making skills.

By considering these values and integrating them into your practice, you’ll not only manage projects more effectively but also lead in a way that is truly agile, deeply human, and immensely rewarding.

From my experience, living these values doesn’t just improve project outcomes—it transforms team culture, enhancing work satisfaction and driving innovation. From a personal perspective, I particularly appreciate and enjoy the Scrum Master role. This is because I get to collaborate with specialized teams, lead Scrum events and ceremonies, exchange project direction with product owners, and advocate the Scrum process. You can too!

Now, let’s carry these values forward, making every project a success!

References:

Schwaber, K., & Sutherland, J. (2020). The Scrum Guide: The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game. Retrieved from https://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html

Scrum.org. (2024). The Scrum Values. Retrieved from https://www.scrum.org/resources/scrum-values

Takeuchi, H., & Nonaka, I. (1986, January). The New New Product Development Game. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved April 2024, from https://hbr.org/1986/01/the-new-new-product-development-game

Mursalin, M. D. (2024, April). Understanding Agile Software Development: A Comprehensive Guide. Medium. Retrieved from https://kryzetech.medium.com/agile-methodology-for-software-development-a-comprehensive-guide-40dc850dc7fc