Scrum Rules: As a Team Member I Do Whatever It Takes to Reach Each Sprint Goal

July 22, 2020
5 minute read

A Team Member is defined by their commitment to the goal(s) of the Scrum Team. If a person is not personally committed, they are not part of the team. Commitment cannot be imposed. A person’s manager can’t force them to be part of the Scrum Team by telling them to be committed.

If all the members of the team are committed to the Sprint goal, then they will all work in whatever way is necessary to accomplish that goal. This commitment willingness to do what it takes is a key factor in creating a high-performance team. If any individual is not committed to the Sprint goal, they aren’t really part of the Scrum Team. Having someone who is not committed but is constantly interacting with Scrum Team members, who is doing work that is properly owned by the team, and who participates in team meetings as if they were a member of the team is incredibly disruptive. This “false” participation can cause morale problems if not eventually fixed either by the person becoming committed or by the person leaving the team. Having people who are on the team in name only will prevent a team from reaching a high-performance state.

Since forcing someone to be committed is impossible, it is worth examining a few ways to increase the likelihood of people choosing to be committed:

  1. Define and discuss the concept of commitment within the team, particularly during Sprint Planning and the Sprint Retrospective.
  2. Create a safe environment for team members where they are not blamed or personally criticized for errors or failures.
  3. Provide appropriate motivations for team members. In particular, creating a strong statement of purpose and identity for the team that is “transcendent” – not self-serving – can make a huge difference.
  4. And, of course, absolutely make sure that people are compensated well enough and reliably. Instability or insufficient compensation undermines the bedrock of commitment.

Creating this positive environment is mostly in the hands of the Product Owner and Scrum Master. However, if the people in these roles are lacking commitment, then a few more approaches need to be considered:

  1. Make the lack of commitment visible with specific examples and ask the people in those roles to address the problems. The people in these roles have a unique individual accountability in Scrum.
  2. Escalate the matter to whomever the Product Owner or Scrum Master reports to.
  3. Take initiative to take over the role from the un-committed individual. This is the most challenging since it is extremely obvious if this happens related to the Scrum Master or Product Owner, and the person in the affected role may become upset.

There is no magic in creating commitment among team members. However, one final principle can help: transparency. Whatever the consequences of the lack of commitment within a Scrum team, if those consequences are made transparent, then at least there is a possibility of something changing.

People personally commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team…. — The Scrum Guide

The Sprint Goal is an objective set for the Sprint that can be met through the implementation of Product Backlog. It provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment. It is created during the Sprint Planning meeting. The Sprint Goal gives the Development Team some flexibility regarding the functionality implemented within the Sprint. The selected Product Backlog items deliver one coherent function, which can be the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal can be any other coherence that causes the Development Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives. — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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