Scrum values in outsourced project Value # 3 Openness

” Scrum keeps everything about a project visible to every one “

What is the difference between PDCA and PDSA?

PDCA – Plan, Do, Check & Act

PDSA – Plan, Do, Study and Act

There is a huge cultural difference between these two. In PDCA, variance from plans are considered as evil, where PDSA promotes fast failures. When we try to implement scrum in organizations with PDCA culture, the incentive for openness about actual results can be negative, where as in PDSA culture, fast failures are welcomed. While organizations switch from the predictive project management styles to adaptive project management styles, this cultural transition can be very challenging. It is more like teaching some one to smile, laugh and exalt when in pain. For a normal eye, this can be the height of madness. Without this paradigm shift, openness can remain as an utopian concept in teams.

MAnagement can take the lead by rewarding ‘Worthy failures’. Without openness in teams, teams will report only the ‘nice to report’ stuff, which can make SCRUM stink.

Openness is directly linked to trust levels within teams. I have experienced great positive shifts in trust levels within the teams, when the manager (scrum master) have sincerely administered the q12 questionnaire among his/her team.

Steps involved;

 The team members are asked to rate the following 12 quetions on a 1-5 scale where 5 is greater than 1, with respect to their current project.

1) Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2) Do I have the material and equipment to do my work right?

3) At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4) In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?

5) Does my supervisor, or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

6) Is there someone at work, who encourages my development?

7) At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8) Does the mission or purpose of my project, make me feel like my work is important?

9) Are my co-workers, committed to doing quality work?

10) Do I have a best friend at work?

11) In the last six months, have someone talked with me, about my progress?

12) At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

A high rating by the team members indicates that it is great work place with trust and openness. 🙂


Scrum values in offshored projects Value#2 Focus

Value#2  Focus

What do you do, If your boss gives you some other work not pertaining to your project (scrum project)?, especially when you are doing a tight rope walk, to meet the sprint goals.  It can be really difficult to say ‘No’. If you say ‘Yes’ the sprint may fail. Which one is better?.

The seniors in the organization as well as the scrum master has a major role to play, to protect the scrum team members from such situations. They will have to act as the torch bearers of the scrum value within the organization, without which scrum practices will not take root within the organization.

Remember, scrum can really transform your organization, provided it is nurtured properly till takes root.  All seniors including the scrummaster has a major role to play here.

During some cases, the noise/disturbance can be inevitable. These should be exceptions and the scrum team should be able to negotiate on the scope front and at any cost, not the time line. The moment the time lines become negotiable, the essence of scrum is lost, and the particular scrum implimentation can start stinking 🙂

In a nutshell, learn to say ‘No’ to smaller things inorder to meet higher goals. If such situations can be avoided – that is better. In case it happens, the negotiation should be on the scope front, not on the sprint end date extension.

The Scrum values in offshored projects – 1 # COMMITMENT


Be willing to commit to a goal. Scrum provides people all the authority they need to meet their commitment (Schwaber)

Willingness to commit to goals depends on factors such as;

# 1 – Risk taking Vs Risk averse supplier & customer

It all depends on how organizations handles failures. One of the fundamentals of scrum is the ability to celebrate fast failures. Some organizations are risk taking, where as some others are risk averse. Some exhibits both these, based on convenience. If the organization has a dupex attitude (risk taking at the time of planning and risk averse while project execution, then it can be very confusing to the teams. We will not be able to expect COMMITMENT on agressive estimates in these circumstances. In offshored projects, the client also should be willing to understand this, apart from the supplier organization.

# 2 – Lack of scrum value awareness

In most of the training programs, it is taught that scrum can be implemented  in one day. The statement ‘We can start implementing SCRUM’ in one day is more correct than the former. The customer also should be willing to understand the SCRUM values. The decision to follow SCRUM for the project should be taken at the project proposal stage itself. If the customer is not aware of the scrum method, somebody should be proactive enough to make them understand SCRUM.  

# 3  Under pressure, the true nature surfaces

Under pressure, the true nature emerges. Very often the scrum master lets it go, due to the ‘I dont care how you do it’ attitude of the management, when there are sprint failures. People tend to forget ‘the ability to celebrate fast failures’ as one of the key traints for successful scrumming.

# 4  Lack of experience by the team

Hey, here we are talking of 30 days sprints, not 200 days sprints. If the estimates are wrong, you had it. Very often, during the earlier sprints, the team is estimating for the first time in their life. Expecting high levels of accuracy is folly at this stage. They are just learning. Everything is new to them at this stage.

It is advisable to have a sprint, whose theme is learning. Let the team make it’s mistakes during this sprint. Very often this will be without proper user stories and estimation. During the sprint retrospectives these should come out. The solution can be the adoption of user stories, wide band estimation (story points) at the user story level.  Remember, the customer has to write the user stories !

# 5  User proxies  and proxies of the proxy

In offshored projects, we very often work through user proxies stationed at the offshored location. Very often the ‘Boss’ of the scrum master will wear this hat, and with this the scrum master looses his backbone. he becomes a proxy of the proxy. Unless the organization organization has an open culture, where people can fearlessly express their views, it can get very difficult.

So when the team is not committing, or when their commitments go wrong, please ask one more ‘Why?’, to identify the real root cause, than recording ‘lack of commitment’ as a root cause 🙂


If you are new to scrum please go through the pages at scrumnet, especially the pages undestanding SCRUM-1 and the SCRUM workflow. To access these pages, go to scrumnet and click on tha pages link.

From my experience in coaching teams on scrum method, I advocate a three phase approach for the teams to master scrum which can be applied in ralation to the average experience level of the team.

Phase -1

Scrum has to be experienced and mastered. For this, the best approach is to get going. Inorder to get going, the team should understand;

  • The agile principles and values
  • The difference between PDCA and PDSA, and the cultural drift between these
  • The building blocks of SCRUM
    • Product backlog
    • Sprint backlog
    • Release backlog
    • Sprint planning meeting
    • Sprints
    • Daily scrums
    • Sprint demo
    • Retrospective meeting
    • Scrum master roles and responsibilities
    • Team member roles and responsibilities
    • Product owner roles and responsibilities
    • Sprint execution basics

With this much knowledge, the team will be able to make a start. Let them experiment with scrum. Let them experience it for a while. At the completion of the first few sprints, they will be faced with the harsh realities scrum exposes. very often the list can read like this;

  • The team morale is high
  • Pressure with pleasure
  • Even pressure
  • Estimates are going haywire
  • Product owner changes the features, without aborting the sprint
  • The sprint continues beyond the demo date
  • The the code by different team members are in different styles
  • Under pressure the system cracks
  • The sprint fails due to the failure of a minority within the team
  • Product owner not available durint sprint planning meetings
  • All the team members are not trained on scrum

This list can keep growing. This is the time the team should get introduced to;

Phase -2

  • User role modeling 
  • How to write effective user stories
  • Story points
  • Applying wide band delphi for story points
  • Triangulating the stories
  • Release planning and story points
  • Sprint planning and story points
  • Possibility of Q.A sprints
  • Exploring the possibility of test automation and daily builds   
  • Revisiting the scrum values of;
    • Commitment
    • Focus
    • Openness
    • Respect
    • Courage

 While the team is on the second leg, the organization should work on;


  • A 360 degree appraisal system, based on the scrum values
  • Daily build system and test automation


If the team members are very senior, then these can be accomplished in one phase or a maximum of two phases. For teams with a mixure of experience levels, I recommend a three phase approach, where during the first phase, the team get aquainted with the scrum method, in the second phase team lerns further to really take care of some of the burning issues faced during the first phase and in the third phase, the organizational leadership cements it with the right systems in place.

Iam looking for opportunities to work with teams in implementing scrum. If you see an opportunity to synergize, please shoot me an email at or call me at 0091 9845178851.

Scrum learning from the field

My observations from SCRUM teams;

  1. Once the SCRUM method is introduced to the team, then they are all motivated to implement it.
  2. Then they go for the implementation, just by focusing on the shell (that is the focus is only on the method. Nobody cares about the scrum values)
  3. With all these, still they complete the project on time, and are happier than the waterfall.
  4. At this stage, the scrum teams can be like a boiling pot, with diverse pent up feelings and opinions, which very often they dont air, due to lack of conducive organizational climate.
  5. This is the time when someone, who has seen many scrum and project battles should work along with them. This is the point one should not give up.
  6. Understanding SCRUM will take only 30 minutes. Mastering SCRUM can take a couple of projects, provided everyone is open to learning.
  7. The time for real implementation is the second project, if the number of sprints in the first project is low. Be open to learning.

The core scrum values

Scrum is based on a set of fundamental values. These values are the bedrock on which SCRUM’s practices rest.

  • Commitment – Be willing to commit to a goal. Scrum provides people all the authority they need to meet their commitments.
  • Focus – Do your job. Focus all of your efforts and skills on doing the work that you have committed to doing. Dont worry about anything else.
  • Openness – Scrum keeps everything about a project visible to every one. be open. Express yourself bold.
  • Respect – Individuals are shaped by their background and their experiences. It is important to respect the different people who comprise a team.
  • Courage – Have the courage to commit, to act, to be open and to expect respect

Now is the time to go for the real implementation, i mean the second one. It can be like parenting. When the first kid comes, we are just learning. For the second kid, we can be a better parent 🙂

High energy Vs Low energy organizations

The role of a corporate consultant and coach provides me with the opportunity to visit atleast one new organization per week on an average. After observing the teams for a very long time, I am able to classify the teams into four quadrants;

The teams can be primarily classified based on their energy levels (physical) and their professional capabilities, which is more associated with the intelligence levels.

a) High energy – High Capability teams

These are those vibrant teams with high physical energy levels and at the same time very high levels of mental stimulation. These are great teams to work with. They motivate you and get the best out of you. Often they are facilitated by very highly skilled and physically fit individuals. These are great places to work.

b) High energy – Low capability teams

These are very ambitious teams with high levels of energy. At the same time, they are unable to attract talent becuase they do not have the money to attract talent. These are the emerging teams. These teams are headed by very ambitious individuals with great dreams. During the course of time, they are quite likely to become high energy – high capability teams or after some time the leadership can loose steam and the team can slip to low enery – low capability quadrant.

c) Low energy – High capability teams

Very often I see these kind of teams in government sponsored research programs, where the team members are highly qualified and intelligent and at the same time the work progresses at a snails pace due to lack of motivation and physical fitness. These are the kind of teams, when they see something wrong, they look at each other expecting the other person to take initiative to resolve it. Often these teams lack leadership.

d) Low energy – Low capability teams

Oh dear… These are pain teams to work with. They can be just busy in protecting their territories and can be full of organizational politics at the cost of the organization. Their days are numbered.

These classifications of the teams are just symptoms of  some hidden organizational issues, which are unattended for a long time. A sincere effort by the senior management  to remove the underlying root causes can transform these teams.

At an individual level, atleast we can have a nice beginning by paying more attention to knowledge gaining and transfer (openness to feedback and learning) , regular physical exercise, proper diet, proper rest and the reduction in alcohol and tobacco 🙂