The Agile Bear Inspirations:
Episode 5: Commitment

Commitment_Staying LoyalThe core of Scrum and all Agile adherent processes for that matter is centered on team and individual commitment. Just the notion of doing Scrum takes commitment. Your commitment is required at Sprint Planning, release planning, in team agreements, to the Definition of Done and so on. In this series, I constantly bring up the subject of whole team commitment, not just individual commitment or leadership commitment. I fully expect every team to ask every member of the team to commit to everything they decide to do.

What does this really mean? This means the Team commits to doing whatever is necessary in order to meet their commitments. It becomes an issue of honor!

This does not mean you are committing to what an executive or manager has said; you are committing to what you said and decided.  If you have to work overtime to meet your commitment, then it is your own honor that you will work overtime to defend, not your managers’. If you do not think, nay believe in your heart and soul this way, then you are not in the spirt of Scrum, Kanban or Agile…

Commitment Within the Scrum Team

The ScrumMaster commits to:

  • Actively guiding the Team and helping the Team adhere to the Scrum process
  • Protecting the team from project & program management (like metrics and status reporting)
  • Holding the team to their own commitments
  • Helping the team improve by holding a mirror up for the team

The Product Owner commits to:

  • Identifying the Minimal Viable Product
  • Always negotiating based on business value
  • Protecting the team as a heat shield from the Stakeholders
  • Prioritizing the backlog to guide the Team as to what they will work on in each Sprint
  • Owning with pride the delivered product (remember that the Product Owner is also a member of the team that made the commitment to deliver)

The Team commits to:

  • Holding each other accountable to do whatever it takes to meet their commitments
  • Creating and holding each other accountable to any team agreements they have made
  • Believing that a whole team commitment means that the team succeeds or fails together

We need to understand that making a commitment is really an issue of our personal and team honor.  I know that in today’s culture, honor has lost some of its significance, but have you ever asked yourself how much your personal and team honor is worth? Has the team asked itself how much is the team’s honor worth? Is “our” honor cheap and meant to be thrown away, or is it something we will defend with our whole being? We must change the way we think about how we work, if we want to be self-managing, then we must make decisions, commit to those decisions and protect our honor by always finding a way to deliver on our commitments.

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

~ Mario Andretti


Now for the homework. I suggest each team fill in the blank in the following sentence:

“We believe in the Scrum Value Commitment therefore we will ________________.”

For example, your team might come back with:

“We believe in the Scrum Value Commitment, therefore we will hold true to our honor to make real commitments that I can and will keep so that my stakeholder will trust that we are true to our word.”

See how many you can create.  Yes, it is a part of your growing team agreement!

Then What?

My suggestion is that you can hold a small workshop to create this artifact or you can do it through email, having everyone add to the list their thoughts in filling out the sentence.  Once you have all voted on the commitments you want in your team agreement, add one final set of ideas around how the team wants to hold each other accountable to this new team agreement. Finally take a commitment vote.

To encourage accountability, post your commitments and/or team agreement in a prominent place in your team rooms. Remind each other and really follow through with the agreement by gently calling each other out; both as a celebration of the good and the opportunities to improve and learn. Also, every once in a while, have a conversation with the team about how you have been applying this value.

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.”

~ Martina Navratilova

The next episode concerns Respect. Read it now.

Episode 1: The Scrum Values

Episode 2: Focus

Episode 3: Courage

Episode 4: Openness