Scrum Values - an exercise for retro

Last post 09:03 pm February 16, 2021
by Jackie Frank
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05:16 pm July 10, 2016

Since Scrum Values are now a hot topic I thought I'll share an exercise that's a good starting point for discussion about the values with the team. I'll be also posting it to http://retrospectivewiki.org later on.

This week a long awaited update to the Scrum Guide formally introduced Scrum Values (Focus, Courage, Openness, Commitment and Respect) - a concept that has been in the community for a while already. If you are a Scrum Master and your team didn’t have a chance to touch this topic yet there won’t be a better moment to do it than now when it’s still hot and people are talking about it everywhere. What might help start the conversation is a little exercise for the Sprint Retrospective or even a one-off meeting.

The overall exercise is an opportunity not only to get a common understanding of the Scrum Values and evaluate how the team adheres to them but also to dig a little deeper in the context of transparency, inspection and adaptation - the three pillars of Scrum.
To start you will need a bunch of sticky notes and some pens. To visualize the results use either a whiteboard/flip-chart or a projector/monitor and an app that allows creating radar charts (e.g. Excel).

The overall exercise consist of four parts. Don’t change the order of the sub-exercises ex #1 and #2. They seem very similar but look at the Scrum Values in your team from different angles.
• [5-10 min] Introduction
• [5 min] Exercise #1
• [5 min] Exercise #2
• [20-40 min] Results analysis and discussion

Introduction – This should be a quick chat to get a more or less common understanding of what each value means for everyone in the team. The purpose is not to dig deep (there will be time for that at the end of the exercise) but to make sure there are no big differences in how the team members understand each value (e.g. Focus might be misunderstood as not being “interrupted” at all while coding).

Exercise #1 – The purpose of this exercise is to see how team members perceive the entire team adhering to each of the Scrum Values.
• Hand over a sticky note and a pen to each member of the team
• Ask everyone to rate on a scale of 1 (worst) to 5 (best) how good the entire team is in each of the five Scrum Values individually. That means it’s possible for instance to give a rate of 4 to each of the five Scrum Values. Any other combination of scores between 1 and 5 is also possible. Don’t use fractions, only integers.
• Give the team some time to think and then collect the sticky notes

Exercise #2 – The second exercise is nearly identical as the first one with the only difference being how the scores are assigned. In ex #2 instead of rating each value individually team members will have to order them from the worst (1 point) to best (5 points). This is deliberately to overstress the differences between how each value was rated in ex #1 and bring into light problems that the team consciously or unconsciously overlooked (e.g. in ex # 1 no Scrum Value got a lower score than 3 but in ex # 2 everyone ordered “Respect” as the worst value and “Openness” as the second-worst).

• Hand over one more sticky note to each member of the team
• Ask everyone to order all five Scrum Values by giving them a unique score between the worst (1 point) and the best (5 points). That means it’s possible to assign a given score to one and only one Scrum Value. Don’t use fractions, only integers.
• Give the team some time to think and then collect the sticky notes

Results analysis and discussion – The two exercises above should give good input for a discussion around the Scrum Values in your team and as mentioned before also in the context of Scrum’s three pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Be sure to sum up the scores for each exercise and visualize them (whiteboard/flip-chart/Excel) in the form of a radar chart. Below are examples of radar charts for two hypothetical teams. The first team has pretty consistent results in both exercises. The second team however has much different scores in Respect and Openness between exercises #1 and #2 which suggests the team is either not very comfortable with bringing those issues up or until now they were not aware those areas stand out.

Team 1 – Consistent results between Ex #1 and #2
http://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5oNYBoaUAxVeTlJUl9WUWNZRkE

Team 2 – Big difference in Respect and Openness between Ex #1 and #2
http://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5oNYBoaUAxVVUNMN2U4eXJiUUk

01:47 am July 11, 2016

I like analyzing and discussing score-based and forced-ranking results. However, it is important to realize that you are not comparing apples to apples. If five members of an eight member Scrum Team all score the values as 4s or 5s, then rank them in the same or highly similar order, what has an score sum of 32 may have an rank sum of 8. This gap is not indicative of an issue. As with the Product Backlog, an item that is listed later does not necessarily hold less value.

07:27 am July 11, 2016

Interesting, to my mind one of the key benefits of the exercises above would be a forced inspection of openness in the team and an evaluation of how honest with itself the team feels. Has the potential to be very cathartic or reaffirming. Noting it down now for a future retro, thanks :-)

07:39 pm July 11, 2016

Posted By Alan Larimer on 11 Jul 2016 01:47 AM
I like analyzing and discussing score-based and forced-ranking results. However, it is important to realize that you are not comparing apples to apples. If five members of an eight member Scrum Team all score the values as 4s or 5s, then rank them in the same or highly similar order, what has an score sum of 32 may have an rank sum of 8. This gap is not indicative of an issue. As with the Product Backlog, an item that is listed later does not necessarily hold less value.

You are correct Alan, should have phrased it a bit differently. A large gap might suggest an issue but doesn't guarantee one.

Posted By Andrew Lishomwa on 11 Jul 2016 07:27 AM
Interesting, to my mind one of the key benefits of the exercises above would be a forced inspection of openness in the team and an evaluation of how honest with itself the team feels.

Openness and courage as it usually takes both to bring difficult topics to the table :)

01:00 pm July 14, 2016

"Openness and courage as it usually takes both to bring difficult topics to the table :)"

+1

02:28 pm February 16, 2021

Hi, although this is a bit of an old post, I found it when I was looking for a way to use our Retro to talk about the Scrum Values. It worked out very nicely! In the beginning, I was not 100% sure about the two different exercises... but it was really valuable! 

After the first round, all values got an almost equal score (between 32 and 35 each, where 40 points would have been the maximum score for each value with 8 people) so we did not have much to discuss. Except that maybe we had a bit of a positivity bias going on ;-)

Then during the second round, some people really did not want to rank any of the values last - I had to stress multiple times that it would not mean that we are bad at it, that it just means that we are maybe not as good at it as the others. And that that was the exact reason for the 2nd exercise: to force them to make a choice (in contrast to the first exercise). Well, as you might expect, the picture was a lot different after the 2nd exercise and it spurred some nice discussions. 

So thank you very much for sharing this exercise! I will be repeating this every now and then with the team to see how we progress over time. 

Regards,

Jackie