Core Values

There is some talk of values in the Scrum literature. The five values called out by the writers of the original Scrum book are focus, courage, openness, commitment and respect. Aside from courage, which I agree is a core value, the rest seem to miss the point of a value basis, which is to establish a way of being, independent of any action.

I see focus as a guiding principle, not a value at all. The focus principle comes with some very clear actions such as prioritizing work to be done, and minimizing work in progress. Openness—being open-minded—is a nice-to-have, not a must-have. I have worked with suspicious people, even cynics, and their input, their questioning of everything, can be very healthy. One doesn’t have to be open-minded to try new ideas. But one needs a degree of trust to embark on that journey. Openness to additional new ideas often follows, but it isn’t  a starting requirement.

The Kanban community decries commitment, believing that it creates unnecessary pressure, and takes us down the road of unmet (unmeetable?) promises which lead us back into the same dysfunction we are trying to escape with an Agile approach. I tend to agree.

Respect is probably one of the most overused terms in the language of values. What process, methodology, religion, community, way of being does not believe they encourage respect? Its wide usage leaves it insipid. Respect is too often understood to mean “be nice”, and I am frequently accused of disrespect because I confront, and challenge. Respect, properly understood as kindness, is a given. We don’t need to call it out in Scrum, as if Scrum practitioners are the only ones who honor it. It is rather absurd.

I believe there are some core values, that can help establish a way of being that offers a foundation for success in moving from a left-brain, logical, commanding culture, to a right-brain, intuitive, creative one. Each of these values begins within self, and can be lived independently of the reactions of others.

  1. Courage — seek your edge; speak from your heart
  2. Trust — lead from a place of faith, not suspicion; follow likewise
  3. Congruency — act with integrity, so your actions and your feelings are always in alignment
  4. Humility — acknowledge your uniqueness, celebrate your strengths, yet strive to be a worker amongst workers
  5. Service — Be alert to the needs of others; ask for and offer help in equal proportion, for service is in the receiving as much as in the giving
Through making a conscious, personal decision to live by these values, healthy community emerges. And when we have a healthy community we stand a chance.
Update 11/29/12: Empathy added as core value

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