Scrum is such a simple Agile framework that it can really be learned and embraced quickly. Because it focuses on getting work done through a team, it’s normally the team that learns the Scrum method and the theory or values that complement Scrum. The leadership team that enables this team; however, it often does not get to learn or practice Scrum on the ground.
As a Scrum practitioner, I feel that there are many things that leaders can learn from Scrum values, in addition to the concept of servant leadership, to be better leaders themselves and effectively help the Scrum teams.
Let’s recap the Scrum values first:
- Focus: Because we focus on only a few things at a time, we work well together and produce excellent work. We deliver valuable items sooner.
- Courage: Because we work as a team, we feel supported and have more resources at our disposal. This gives us the courage to undertake greater challenges.
- Openness: As we work together, we express how we’re doing, what’s in our way, and our concerns so that they can be addressed.
- Commitment: Because we have great control over our own destiny, we are more committed to success.
- Respect: As we work together, sharing successes and failures, we come to respect each other and to help each other become worthy of respect.
Here is my take on how inculcating the Scrum values can help the leader in us.
The 2016 Harvard Business Review
article “Embracing Agile
” explains that leaders often start too many things, spreading the best of their teams too thin. Instead, leaders should focus on the two to three most important themes and on making a difference with those. Just as Scrum Teams focus all of their energy on their sprint goal or commitment to help get things done faster, leaders can also prioritize their tasks or initiatives and focus on the most important things to get those done faster.
Accepting suggestions from team members, and acting on those to show that you care, takes a lot of courage. We as leaders should hone that courage, leave out our ego, and ensure that we do not miss out on learning from others. One leader I met recently stated that he converses with at least one bright person whom he does not work with directly, irrespective of the person’s role, every day for at least 30 minutes to learn about his/her work and apply new concepts in his work. This definitely takes a lot of courage!
It’s not enough for leaders to state that they are open to suggestions. They need to demonstrate this conviction and create an open environment in which the team feels comfortable giving their opinions. Although implementing an open-door policy is a great first step, I love using the concept of “Gemba,” which translates to “Get out of the office to go where the work gets done.” Reaching out to people at their own work location can be enormously helpful in opening their hearts to their leaders.
As Scrum guides us, the team is committed to the work when they are involved in the decision-making processes that affect the implementation of their day-to-day activities. Involving teams in such decisions — empowering them to use their knowledge to come up with a shared vision — gives them a shared purpose and fuels their commitment to perform better. The leader also needs to ensure that the team is protected so that they can honor their commitment, not distracted by being led into “extra” less important tasks.
I have seen that when we respect people and their perspectives, it pays rich dividends. Holding a retrospective with the team in the quest to continuously improve the way of working is a great step toward showing respect for the team’s opinion.
The Scrum values have definitely helped me in my leadership journey so far, and they demonstrate a lot of potential for richer rewards ahead. I always remember that a great leader is created only by a great team!