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Professionalism in Scrum. What does it mean to be a Professional?

November 14, 2020

Doing Scrum is not enough! The precious result will not be achieved just by understanding and following the rules and principles of the Scrum Framework. Every day organisations are starting and failing with business agility, praise, and blame Scrum. And everyday organisations are succeeding with Scrum! So what is the difference?

Learning the rules and principles of Scrum, understanding the “Why” and “What” of Scrum is essential. It is an excellent start to Scrum and an excellent first step for a Scrum Master. But learning about empirical process control, Values, Principles, essentials elements, and rules of Scrum doesn’t guarantee your success. There are still questions to answer, and one of them is:

Are you doing Scrum, or Professional Scrum?


Professionalism in Scrum.

Professional /prəˈfɛʃənl/ [only before noun] connected with a job that needs special training or skill, especially one that needs a high level of education. 

Professional /prəˈfɛʃənl/ [of people] having a job that needs special training and a high level of education

- Oxford learner’s dictionaries -


In the context of Scrum, I am speaking about Professionalism as the ability to deliver Done working product every Sprint and satisfy the customer needs. The combination of next Qualities required for it:

  • Discipline - Scrum requires discipline to work correctly. Rules, principles, and mechanics of Scrum need to be followed to get value from it. It is hard, and you will face situations where it will be a pressure to violate or give up Scrum. Professionals are disciplined enough to keep on track and benefit from Scrum.
  • Behavior - The values of Focus, Respect, Openness, Courage, and Commitment are at the heart of Scrum. In this context, they give (but do not limit) the foundation of the way a team and organization works. They provide the foundation of working agreements and the understanding of how the Team and Organisation behave. What behavior is professional and what action is ethical. 
  • Transparency - It is hard but essential to accept and show the state of things as they are. Transparency is critical to inspect, adapt and to make the right decisions. Professionalism means that there is no place for lying. There is a place for the courage to stand for the things we have done, to keep them transparent doesn’t matter what happens.
  • Quality - Lack of quality means terrible products and such products make people unhappy. Lack of quality makes our job harder. Professional people are responsible for the things they do and the products they deliver. Professionals understand that they are standing behind the work they do. As a Professional Chef cooks the “done” food in a quality manner, professionals deliver a quality product and do the quality work every day, doesn’t matter what happens. 
  • Accepting - Understanding and accepting complexity and uncertainty in the world around. We can not predict things, and we can not do everything right from the first attempt. Professionals are comfortable with failure and learn from every result, positive or negative. Accept that our plans fail.
  • Accountability for Result - Just being busy doesn’t mean we deliver value. People's responsibility doesn’t end only on building things. Professionals are accountable for the work they do and accountable for success. They are accountable for delivering done working products every cadence and satisfy customer needs. Professionals don't stop being accountable when the work is completed; professionals remain accountable when the results of their work are used.

These qualities in the combination of trained and skilled people are making professionalism in Scrum.


The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. Scrum Teams are self-organising and cross-functional. Self-organising teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team. 

- Scrum Guide. ©2017


  • Skilled People - Professionals have all the skills they need (or they look for and acquire skills) to accomplish the work and achieve the intended result. Professionals can plan how to perform their work best, accept the success or failure, and adapt if needed. Current development trends and development practices, being experts in the work people do and continuously improve to remain on a high level of expertise.
  • Trained People - Learning is an essential part of remaining professional. People need to know how they will work and what they will do. Expertise and skills need to be learned and grown. Being trained in domains and skills, bringing them to perfection, and continuously improving is what it means for professionals to be trained.


The Shu-Ha-Ri of professionalism.

Shu-Ha-Ri is a Japanese term that is best known to describe the overall progression of martial arts training.

  • Shu - Learn the Rules and follow them. Step by step.
  • Ha - Add your own thinking. Combine and change the rules.
  • Ri - There are no more rules, only dao, the natural course of things.

Unfortunately, no professional Is born a Professional, but every professional is grown as a professional. It is a journey to achieve the level of professionalism we require. But to accomplish this, we need to start doing things right and gain the benefit the Rules bring.

Shu - Learn the Rules of Scrum and follow them. Try to do Scrum as it is described and intended to be, without any changes, adoptions, or additions. Gain the Value it brings and experience it working properly. You will experience things that are challenging and straightforward. You will experience areas where you need help, tools, and practices, and you will grow with this.

Ha - Add your thinking and your own experience. Figure out what works right and what might be better and improve it with different experiments. Some of them will work, and some of them will fail, but it doesn't matter what will be the result - you will learn, become more experienced, and try other experiments.

Ri - At the end, it is not about Scrum. It is about delivering the Value fast and often, making customers and stakeholders happy. And this will become a natural course of things for you, your team, and your organisation.

Don't forget; you are not only building Products in a complex environment but also changing the way you are working in the same domain. Within the world of complexity, the way to the Professional Scrum is not clear. There are much more unknown than known on the way to it. There are no roadmaps to follow, milestones to achieve, or best practices on how to achieve it.

So is it hard? - Yes. Is it achievable? - Absolutely. Is it worth it? - Every minute spent! Who is accountable for the Professional Scrum to arise? - Scrum Master!

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