A deeper look on Scrum 5 values

In 2020 Scrum celebrated 25 years of existence and a new edition of the Scrum Guide came to light. That prompted a lot of discussions among Scrum Masters and coaches alike, about the practices, principles, all the changes Scrum has experienced and how it got so much less prescriptive over time.

When frameworks change, one of the points I like to consider is how strong the values they propose are. Do they still hold? Did they change? In the case for Scrum, the 5 values of Courage, Focus, Respect, Commitment and Openness still hold solid and invaluable. I would say now more than ever, in a less prescriptive Scrum, values are what help you to stay true to Scrum.


Scrum value of Courage

I always like to start with courage when talking about Scrum. Boldness, fearlessness, bravery. That is why on my talking with teams and individuals, I depict it always as a lion.

Scrum calls for a team to do the right things AND to not do what is wrong. In a world where sometimes companies might bend the rules to benefit agendas other than the client satisfaction, a team who can embrace Scrum will be rather disruptive, but that is the only way to grow and achieve results within this framework.

There are many moments in which courage will be asked of Scrum teams. Here are some examples:

  • Integrating pieces of the product everyday or releasing straight into production early and often. A team who does that is constantly exposed to the possibility of breaking already functioning components of the product, and they challenge themselves each day to be their best version in responsibility and in knowledge to avoid such issues.

  • Challenging assumptions and ways of thinking and of doing that have "always been that way".

  • In a similar fashion, voicing opinions, especially when the voices are dissonant, calling out discrepancies in methods, in results and in behavior.

  • Choosing proper solutions instead of quick fixes. A great Scrum team knows how important customer delight is and how heavy is the burden of technical debt.

  • Asking for help and saying "I don't know" can be wrongfully perceived as a weakness. A courageous Scrum team calls this a normal day and grow from these opportunities of learning and collaboration.

  • Making decisions: deciding and owning up to the outcomes of their decisions, including and very importantly, when making mistakes. Without this, no team can truly be self-managed.

  • Sharing the truth on real progress and quality is what guarantees transparency. In an ideal environment there is no judgement, but a Scrum team knows that in the real world there is nothing 100% judgement free and that should not hurt their integrity.

A great Scrum Master will build a safe space in which people can be brave everyday, or will at least fight hard for it. On that note, the Scrum Master should be the first one to behave with courage and set the example to everybody else. But ultimately, management and leadership layers are key for allowing that level of autonomy speak and do great things. In an environment governed by distrust and hidden agendas no Scrum team can really succeed.


Scrum value of Focus

The definition of focus is a point of concentration. Emphasis. Direction. Vision. In the Scrum context, focus is undivided attention to do what needs to be done. And what needs to be done is the right thing according to clients and the law.

Scrum teams usually are creating products that are of high complexity, in which a lot is to be discovered. When facing complexity, stripping things to the core and not getting distracted by details, to be able to deliver, to get stuff done, focus is essential.

That is why my chosen pictogram is a bullseye. Here are some examples on why focus is such an important value for Scrum:

  • Any study on executive brain function will tell you that we all perform at peak when doing one thing at a time. We are not only talking about one main objective (feature, deliverable, functionality), but also, literally, one task at a time, sequentially, as if you could mark a checklist. In that sense focus help both people to achieve flow and to lessen the opportunity for making mistake.

  • One corollary of this this is that focus actually leads to more stuff done overtime, because multi-tasking is costly on attention and context switching, not to mention time spent on fixing errors and redoing things, instead of incrementing them.

  • A second corollary is to use the metaphor that a team that is sending a lot of arrows hoping to hit a bullseye will most likely not hit anywhere near the center of the target. So you had a lot of work done, actions taken; none of those really amounting to something complete or valuable. That is demoralizing for the team and wasteful of the company's resources.

  • Doing what matters: products and features instead of doing lots of documentation, like the Agile Manifesto said. Focusing on collaborating with the customers in giving them what they consider valuable. Goals and objectives the team takes should reflect that.

  • Operating in unison, as a real team, more than just as a working group. The focus or target of the Scrum is shared by all team members, regardless of their title or skill set. That is working together with a one single goal. That is collaboration.

Focus is what allows team to keep the ever-so-elusive sustainable pace indefinitely and the Scrum Master will be protective of that space for the team. That is why Products have goals, Sprint have goals and every event in Scrum has a clear outcome. Because... focus. So a Scrum Master is always busy working with the Product Owner and stakeholders to create a clear and single channel for demands and prioritization. Also working with the team to call out whenever they seem to be aiming at too many directions.

In order to be able to focus, a team must have the courage to say no to certain things. They must also be respectful of people's individual limits, which requires respect. I believe at this point I am being able to show you how the Scrum values are very essentially intertwined.


I find this statement so powerful: Scrum team members respect each other to be capable, independent people. Capable. Independent. It speaks of us all being able to accept our individuality and celebrating it on others. I will always depict that with a heart!

Respect is so visceral because it is attached to people's self-worth. When it is lacking, teams are more than demoralized. People feel diminished, not valued and that is probably the one value whose absence people will tolerate the least. It has to be there!

But Scrum requires yet an extra level with this value so that Scrum teams can operate in good health. Let's look at examples:

  • If courage asks us to say what needs to be said, respect is what reminds us to say those things in a positive and encouraging way. We look forward, we envision solutions, we do not assign blame.

  • A Scrum team is appreciative and respectful of differences not only in people's background, knowledge and opinion, but also uses discomfort, dissent as an opportunity for growth and to seek perspective. This is an interesting part when the value of respect touches the value of openness.

  • Respecting people's autonomy is to give them healthy boundaries so that