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One of the most overlooked parts within the Scrum Framework - Commitments

April 8, 2022

In 2020 the Scrum Guide introduced the classification of three commitments -Multiple Goals

  • The Product Goal
  • The Sprint Goal
  • The Definition of Done. 

The Sprint Goal and the Definition of Done already existed in Scrum. With the addition of the Product Goal, the three commitments became core to Scrum, joining alongside the 3 Accountabilities, 3 Artefacts and 5 Events.

The Scrum Guide describes the purpose of the commitments as 

" ensure it provides information that enhances transparency and focus against which progress can be measured." 
 "...These commitments exist to reinforce empiricism and the Scrum values for the Scrum Team and their stakeholders." 

Transparency improves when people working on something understand what they are looking at and its intention/purpose. By having an explicit, understandable outcome (i.e. a goal or a Definition of Done), the whole Team works together to do everything they can to achieve the outcome. It is a unifying intrinsic motivation for the group.

How do the commitments reinforce Empiricism and the Scrum Values to the Scrum Team and their Stakeholders? defines Empiricism as

"...Only the past is accepted as certain and in which decisions are based on observation, experience and experimentation." 

So How do the Goals Help?

Having a Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and DoD serves as a target used to observe progress and evaluate how near we are to the desired state. Questions such as,

  • Have we altered our original plan to keep heading towards the goal?
  • What unexpected changes have we had to address?
  • What additional items must be done to meet the expected criteria, and are they all explicitly known? to answer  "How can we use this knowledge to decide what to do going forward?"  

All help to support an empirical way of working. - Experience, Observe, Experiment. We're basing our decisions on observations and what we've done before, reinforcing Empiricism's principles.

What Support do the Scrum Values Provide?  

"When these values are embodied by the Scrum Team and the people they work with, the empirical Scrum pillars of Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation come to life building trust."

Scrum Guide 2020 

Scrum Values When the values are not present, trust can be undermined and damaged. A team will struggle to embrace transparency if any level of mistrust exists; mistrust surrounding the potential behaviour of the Team and stakeholders. Teams will consciously or subconsciously decide to hide the actual state of progress when they have experienced adverse reactions from stakeholders. The absence of the values makes it highly likely that a Team will not demonstrate courage and openness and sugarcoat or watermelon* the actual situation.

Scrum Values impact not only the behaviours of the Team but also Stakeholders. Stakeholders may need courage and respect when supporting the Product Owner in their decision making. Hence the accountability of the Scrum Master to be a coach and help the broader organisation understand the Scrum Framework. 

Behaviours around the Scrum Values are reinforced by having an understandable goal with a known acceptable quality of the Product. It becomes the only natural stance to provide an accurate picture. It takes more effort to create a vague state of progress in an already complex world as the actual condition is transparent.

Questions like,

  • Do we have a Done product?
  • Have we achieved the outcome in the Sprint?"

become a yes / no option. "How far away from the future state are we?" is obvious. The people inspecting the state can find no place to hide away from difficult conversations.  

The Commitments reinforce Empiricism within Scrum

  • Teams compare the current state of the increment with its desired future state and may choose to adapt the direction.
  • Progress made within the Sprint is inspected.
  • The quality of the increment is available, visible and understood by all.

All this is reinforced by having one of the most overlooked aspects of Scrum - The Three Commitments. 



*The watermelon effect is when people report everything is ok, "Green", but the actual "Red" state starts to appear when you dig deeper. 

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