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When is Something Actually “Valuable”?

October 24, 2023

Scrum is a framework to reduce risk, increase predictability, and deliver value to your stakeholders sooner.

During our latest meetup with CEO Dave West, we concluded that many teams don't have a clear understanding of the term 'value'. Even though it's the most essential part of Scrum! 😱

Situations many teams apparently face are:

❌ Teams don't have a clue who their stakeholders are, so the expected value delivery also isn't clear;
❌ Teams focus on the wrong stakeholders. People with an opinion or loud voice aren't automatically stakeholders. As such, they don't deliver value to their real stakeholders.
❌ Teams know who their stakeholders are, but they lack the effective collaboration necessary to discover what value is needed.

🤷‍♀️ Team members, stakeholders, and leaders in the organization all have a different understanding of the term 'value'.


When is something actually “valuable”? For something that seems so central to Scrum, there is little guidance on what “value” means.

🤔 How can you state with certainty that value was delivered by your Scrum team? What would you need to observe or see happening?
🤔 Should all the work that your team delivers be immediately valuable to the stakeholders? Or can there be some delay?
🤔 What does “maximizing value” mean in terms of behavior and decisions that a Scrum team makes?
🤔 How does the Product Goal inform what is valuable?
🤔 How does a Scrum team decide which items on the Product Backlog are more valuable than others? What do they base these decisions on?
🤔 Whose perspective do you take when deciding what has “value”?

These questions are difficult to answer. The Scrum Guide cleverly stays out of defining “value” and argues that it depends on the context and the stakeholders for which the work is done.  But difficult to answer doesn't mean you should simply ignore it. 🙈

A good next step might be to bring these questions to the next Sprint Review, and together with your stakeholders (assuming they're present), figure out the answers together.

Other actions to start small and simple are:
1️⃣ Together with your stakeholders, discuss: 'If our team could stay together for only 3 more iterations, what work would you definitely want to have done?'
2️⃣ Share your Product Backlog with at least 3 stakeholders, and ask them what items they consider the least valuable. Remove the items you can't explain either.
3️⃣ Select 1 item from your Product Backlog that has been written from a technical perspective. Work together to reformulate this item in language that one of your team's stakeholders would understand.

What's your experience with defining 'value' for a Scrum team? What's your take on the term? What recommendations do you have to help a team start improving❓

This post by Christiaan Verwijs might be a good starting point: "What Is This Thing Called Business Value?". 

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