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Ethical/unethical behavior in Scrum

Last post 03:28 pm April 17, 2023 by Dioumé Sangaré
4 replies
02:34 pm April 14, 2023

Hi everyone,

I have trouble understanding the topic of (un)ethical behavior in Scrum.

From my research (within this forum, and from videos and articles from the blog), I had come to the understanding that an unethical behavior in Scrum would be any behavior going against the Scrum values.

However, one feedback I got from talking about this topic with some peers was not to confuse unethical behavior and disrespectful behavior. Since respect is one of the Scrum values, to me if one of the Scrum Team members doesn't show respect (for example, a more experienced team member disregarding a less exprienced one's opinions about a topic) to one of the other team members, he is displaying an unethical behavior. 

I am a bit lost about the matter, could any of you help me get a better grasp of the concept? Do you have examples of (un)ethical behavior?


Thanks for reading!

09:51 pm April 14, 2023

I had come to the understanding that an unethical behavior in Scrum would be any behavior going against the Scrum values.

I'd suggest that the Scrum values afford a moral anchor whereas the Scrum accountabilities speak to professional ethics.

11:35 am April 15, 2023

Hi Dioumé,

You can think of professional Scrum ethics like a doctor's Hippocratic oath. We want to do no harm and hold ourselves accountable to do what is best for our product and stakeholders.

Unethical behaviour could include:

  • Not adhering to the Definition of Done
  • Knowingly writing low quality code
  • Not adhering to team agreements
  • Not upholding the Scrum Values
  • Negleting accountabilities
  • Not sharing knowledge or helping the team

Note that ethical standards also depend on your domain of work, so this is not an exhaustive list. 

PST, Ravi Verma has a great tapas video on this.

You can also reference this software ethics site that provides some examples.  

12:05 am April 16, 2023

I don't think that the Scrum Guide, including the Scrum values, are sufficient grounds to hold a discussion about ethical or unethical behavior. You'd need some kind of code of ethics to do so. Coming from a background in software engineering, I'd be looking towards codes such as the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct or the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. Other industries often have their own professional associations with codes of ethics, some of which may be useful even if you aren't a member of that professional association.

Without too deep of an analysis, I would suspect that the Scrum Values would support ethical behavior, especially the values of Openness, Respect, and Courage. These values would tend to support honestly among the team members and with stakeholders, fairness, comprehensive and thorough risk evaluations, and having conversations about the responsibilities of the team with respect to the work that they are doing and how they are doing it. Focus and Commitment may also support professionalism, quality work, and professional competence. Given the various codes of ethics that I'm familiar with, I'd generally say that you could see how these Scrum Values can support various elements of the code.

Violating one of the Scrum Values may not necessarily be unethical behavior, but incorporating the Scrum Values into how the team works could help foster an environment where individuals do behave ethically and responsibly.

08:56 am April 17, 2023

Thank you all for your answers!

From what I understand based on these posts, and after further reading:

  1. The topic of ethics in Scrum is context-dependent
  2. Based on your context you can adhere to a code of ethics or create one you choose to adhere to
  3. The Scrum values and accountabilities may provide implicit guidelines of (un)ethical behavior in the absence of a code of ethics

I have a follow-up question : I was reading the Professional Scrum Infrographic and saw this sentence "Scrum Team members must establish and uphold ethical behaviors". Has any of you established an explicit code of ethics with one of his(her) teams (apart from those mentioned by Thomas and Ryan)?

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