Commitment is a term we use often in Agile. But what does it mean really? One of the 4 core values of Agile tells us to respond to change over following a plan. You might wonder than; with all that apparent flexibility what is the significance of commitment?
For me, commitment means being a team. And as that team doing your absolute best with tools like Scrum, dedication, transparency, continuous improvement and so on to deliver value. Commitment in Scrum for me is the ultimate prerequisite of great teamwork.
Taking one for the team
Honestly working together with a group of ‘random’ people on a collective goal brings out the best and the worst in all of us. Remember that first time, probably somewhere back in high school, when you first had to deliver something with a team someone else put together. Immediately you were either an advocate for or against working together with others.
If you were an over achiever I’m sure you were annoyed that you were now judged by the weakest link. And if you were a slacker you must have been happily enjoying the free ride. Either way, a taste for working together in teams was developed promptly. And now here we all are all these years later; still dependent on others to achieve anything of value.
For those of you who wish to claim themselves a lone ranger; the freelancers, consultants, experts and people in similar roles among us, you are most likely still a part of something greater. Not in the universal sense, let’s not get into a theological discussion, but on a practical level. If that truly isn’t the case I’ll accept that you really despise mankind on a deeper level and you can go grab a coffee and forgo reading any further. For the rest of us; I feel you.
Because there are many things that can go (horribly) wrong when you put a group of people together. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been part of a team where there was; poor communication, lack of a goal, micromanaging or nitpicking, disruptive personalities, a lack of initiative, fear of failure, too much employee turnover or individuals who don’t feel included. That must have been why mum used to say ‘play nice when you play together’.
But there is also the flip side, or the upside as you will. Because raise your hand if; you’ve met your best friend or partner at work, your colleagues help you out when need be, you have lunch or drink beers together, you have a group chat where everyone posts funny stuff, you celebrate birthdays and births together and you learn things from each other. Because where else are we interacting with people to such extent, sometimes amazed by whom makes us smile?
Over the years I’ve been a part of many different (Scrum, ScrumBan, DevOps) teams and each and every one has had its challenges and each and every one still holds a warm place in my heart.
The thing I love most about Agile teamwork is that you verbalize your collective commitment every iteration. And really; I don’t necessarily mean commitment to delivering a set scope on a set date but commitment to applying yourself to Sprint goals, or to delivering value, or to practice Scrum, or to helping each other out, and so on.
By committing you share responsibility; every Scrum role had a distinct accountability. And it is this commitment which empowers you to take collaborative actions if the need should arise. Stepping up to the plate when priorities shift, when team members need a hand, when Scrum is not being practiced, when value isn’t delivered, and so on.
So in my view, commitment is the ultimate prerequisite for a team that drives their own improvement and success and are collectively accountable for learnings and failures, the ultimate prerequisite of great teamwork.
Now that we’ve established working in a team can be challenging but definitely a learning experience how do we combine our need for socializing with our personal ambition? That is where the team coach can lend a hand. Oh wait, that’s me. But what can you do?
The most important tip I can give you is to put your ego aside every once in a while. Take the time appreciating others around you. And if you are really feeling frisky try and put yourself in their shoes from time to time. You might end up catching yourself taking one for the team.
Also I would definitely advise you to make the commitment of your team topic of discussion. What values does your team want to uphold? How are you transparent about your teams’ values? And most of all; lead by example and show some commitment!