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March 19, 2017

Maximize Scrum with the Scrum Values: Focus (Part 1 of 5)

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Stephanie Ockerman

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This is the first in a five-part series about the Scrum values.  These values are focus, openness, courage, commitment, and respect.  They are so important and so often misunderstood that they were added to the Scrum Guide in July of 2016.  

These five values are easy to remember, but it can be difficult to understand what they mean, how to apply them, and how to recognize them in teams and individuals.  Without the Scrum values, we are just going through the motions and will not maximize the benefits of Scrum and enable business agility.

Let's tackle focus in this post.  When we are dealing with complexity and unpredictability, focus is essential in order to get anything meaningful done.

Focus facilitates empiricism and collaborative teamwork.

  • Instead of people working independently on separate Product Backlog Items, Scrum Teams are often more effective when they collaborate on one or two things.  They get one thing done and then move on the next.  This can reduce potential waste from WIP (work in progress) and undone work at the end of a Sprint.  While Scrum doesn't tell you how to deliver, focus can lead a team to discovering their best way to work to get things done sooner and minimize waste.
     
  • When there are multiple issues (I'm pretty sure they come in 3's), focus helps a team determine what to tackle first, inspect their progress frequently, and try new experiments as they work towards a solution.
     
  • When there are competing priorities, focus helps a team decide what is the most important thing right now.  
     
  • When the future is uncertain, there is a tendency to want to keep analyzing.  Focus helps a team accept uncertainty, look at what they know today, and take a small step.  This approach works because we learn from doing and can change direction based on what we learn.
     
  • The Development Team's shared accountability to deliver the "Done" Increment creates a focus on the overall outcome, not simply on what each individual can accomplish.
     
  • Having a product vision creates focus on where we are going, and that can inform the team's decisions on a daily basis.

The Scrum framework includes elements that help promote focus.

  • We focus on having a "Done"Increment at least by the end of every Sprint.
     
  • The Scrum events and artifacts help create focus on inspecting progress and new information, so we can adapt at frequent enough intervals.
     
  • We focus on a Sprint Goal to guide the team in what to deliver.
     
  • Each role has a distinct accountability which helps individuals know what to focus on as their priority.  That ultimately contributes to team outcomes.
     
  • The Product Backlog is an ordered list, and that creates focus on what is most important thing to do next.
     
  • Time-boxed events create a sense of urgency and help us focus on the purpose of the event.

These are just a few examples of how the Scrum value of focus lives within a Scrum Team to help them maximize the benefits of Scrum.  There are many more.  

It's not just enough to tell a team, "these are the Scrum values," and give some examples.  Values are deeper than that.  Teams need to continuously and collaboratively refine what these values mean for them in order to truly maximize Scrum.