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Agile Commitment, Say What!

16 March 2016

"Commitment" is and has always been a sensitive word, whether it is used regarding one's personal life or professional life. On professional front, it means one's image and value. It is another word for quality delivery on time and on budget.

On traditional projects, management commits to supporting the program/project, the team commits to on-time delivery, and the stakeholders commit to support the program/project, all for its ultimate success. This is inherent and understood. However, there are many valid reasons that call for putting the commitment to the program/project on the back burner. As much as it was not project team's intention to hurt the progress of the project, they are now responsible for any unfavorable outcomes.

Agile executions have explicit discussion of core Scrum values that the project team has to understand and commit to. By doing so, it makes the team more accountable and responsible.

The five core values of Scrum are focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect. In addition, Agile has one more core value that is not explicitly mentioned: trust. Building trust within Scrum teams or with stakeholders will always help take the above-mentioned core values to next level.

From the start to the end of the project, at every sprint or key release level, these core values play a role. It's a way of building an Agile culture within the team(s) to make them highly efficient.

Agile – preliminary relationship goals

  • Agile projects are identified and approved after performing a proper analysis/method criteria
    • Note: This point is suggested by the author in cases when the entire organization is not Agile or in case of hybrid Agile rollouts.
  • Training
    • Leadership and management are aware of the Agile framework, pros and cons, and the financial management associated with the projects. They have a good overview of how Agile works.
    • Project teams consisting of the product owner, ScrumMaster, and Scrum team must complete Agile training. This is a prerequisite.
    • Stakeholders like business users, end users, or middle management, who have vested interest in the project status and end product, are offered executive Agile training including an overview and the execution strategy.
    • Any ad hoc Scrum team members who are engaged on specific sprints need to be provided a relevant level of Agile overview and execution info.
  • Coaching
    • An Agile coach has to be allocated to work with the project team till they get into rhythm.
  • Agile believes in Lean organization structure or team structure. Therefore, roles on the project are identified based on necessity, and any overhead or oversight roles are discouraged.
  • All stakeholders, program team, project team, management, and leadership must commit to Agile execution. That means they understand and hereby sign (not literally!) that they know how Agile works.

By taking these steps, project teams can avoid the following situations:

  • Leadership thinking
    • Agile means faster delivery with fewer resources.
    • Agile means lower cost.
  • Program management and PMO thinking
    • Agile can save dollars.
    • Resources can deliver more within a short span of time.
  • Middle management thinking
    • Their role is important even on Agile projects.
    • Oversight is much needed on all projects.
  • Product Owner(s) thinking
    • Once user stories are given to the Scrum team, responsibility is transferred to the team to code and deliver.
    • They can inject user stories at the last minute in the active sprint(s).
    • They can request changes to the sprint scope after the sprint planning.
      • I don't blame them; check the Agile principles. One is often misconstrued, which has resulted in confused Agile and/or corrupted Agile definitions in the industry:
        • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
        • Source:
      • It's not that changes can't be accommodated, but untimely change requests result in cost impacts, the team may have rhythm issues, and building an Agile culture within the teams may take more time than expected.
  • ScrumMaster thinking
    • They have no major role to play on Agile projects.
    • It's totally on the product owner and Scrum team to deliver.
  • Scrum team thinking
    • They have more power and are mostly team driven.
    • The pace of the project is based purely on their delivery of user stories.
In reality, none of the above roles are powerful if acted in silos. They all should collaborate as a team for the success.

Teams have to understand what they are getting into. New teams go through a roller coaster ride before they settle in. Making a commitment to stick to the project goals would be the best place to get started on the projects.

Hail Agile!

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.


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