April 16, 2021


News for Agilists

Trust in the Team – Serious Scrum

How does trust interact and depend on respect?

I get asked quite often, “what is the most important Scrum value?” Over the many years that I have worked in and experimented with the Scrum Master role, I have given a tremendous amount of thought to the Scrum Values section of the Scrum Guide. While commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect are all important to all teams, for me, respect is the cornerstone on which all other values and pillars depend on. Respect is not just important for Scrum teams, but all teams, regardless of the work they do, and how they perform it.

When it comes to respect, dictionary.com defines it as esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability. In short, treat each other well with kindness, compassion and understanding. Then how and why is it so important to teams?

When team members do not respect each other, there are several things that come along with this. If respect is missing, team members believe they can only rely on themselves. This causes not just teams, but individual team members to horde knowledge and create silos. It fosters the dangerous belief of us vs. them. Whether that is development vs. quality or the Scrum team vs. Product. Or any combination of these. It may even be the team vs. management. When this happens, it can and often stems from a lack of trust.

If team members don’t trust each other, how can they be expected to trust anybody outside of the team? When trust breaks down or never existed, this is probably the most challenging part of the Scrum Master’s role to work on. In my career, I have faced this a “few” times.

Helping team members trust each other takes time, effort, compassion, and understanding to name a few things. With that being said, you might be thinking, “OK, so what are some ways to do this?” What has worked for me is building trust with individual team members first. I work at understanding what motivates team members. What keeps them coming to work every day? What do they enjoy about the work they do? Finding out what they like to do outside of work? Understanding these things about each team member helps build correlations and bridges between team members.

Given this, how then can these bridges be built? Some people may say bring these commonalities out during Sprint Retrospectives. This can work, but it can also put people “on the spot” which would make them defensive and not open to learning about each other. What I’ve found that works best is do this outside of any formalized meeting. Bring people together over lunch or even a coffee break. Ask leading questions about what the team members like to do based on the commonalities you’ve uncovered from previous discussions. As team members begin talking about similar likes and even similar dislikes, over time trust will return to the team. As team members regain trust for each other, they will also begin to respect each other.

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