The Scrum Guide lists five values that each and every Scrum Team member must live by – commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect – and leaves the team space for personal experience. From my personal experience, I can say that discipline is important to success, and a virtue that only emerges when you incorporate the five scrum values. Most importantly, discipline always thrives on clearly stated goals.
I have been working as a Scrum Master for a few years and have observed that each team reacts to problems in their own way – this is the complexity factor. Although sometimes teams fail, many are successful. The teams that are successful share the same success factor: a clearly defined goal.
Let me share a story. Team “Z” was initially overwhelmed with work it had to complete. This team was not only responsible for delivering new features to a product, but also solving customer problems as quickly as possible. As a result, the team’s sprints were unfocused and its priorities changed frequently. All this was followed by a lack of predictability generating frustration. Top priorities for the team were always new features, reported bugs, and customer issues.
When the team needed to install a new version of a legacy product, it decided to decrease the number of work items affecting their sprints. Most importantly, the team focused on new features. Apart from these features, additional customer issues were analyzed and prioritized by the product owner. After two sprints were completed, the must-have features were finally ready. Although at this point the product was potentially shippable, the team, together with the product owner, decided to improve the quality and implement additional fixes, while at the same time, providing support to the customers. It turned out that this Kanban-like style served the team better, since the main focus was now effective reduction of technical debt. An acceptable quality level of the product was reached just one week after the deadline, and a new and high-quality version of the legacy product was ready for installation.
This updated goal helped improve the team’s focus, made discipline vital, and improved the quality of work in the team. The product owner decided to make the sprint goals smaller and more concise, so that there was a balance between the delivery of new features and support of the customer. Once the team clearly stated its goal, they could:
- Adapt in a better way
- Stay focused
- Suggest solutions
- Make conscious commitments
- Check progress towards the goal
- Become successful
The story I shared is just one example of how establishing clear goals cultivates good discipline. When a team stays focused on each single goal within a sprint (that is, a fixed timebox), it helps foster discipline and improves effectiveness. Anyone that works with a development team, C-level executives, managers, product owners, Scrum Masters and fellow developers, must always remember this. When you keep your focus on a single goal at a time, rest assured that the effectiveness of a team will visibly improve.