Articles | February 16, 2023

Scrum values. Openness in Scrum = better transparency

Openness is one of the 5 Scrum values. A lack of openness might have a negative impact on the entire Scrum team and stakeholders, resulting in poor communication, lack of trust, or limited transparency. These are extremely important in Agile projects! In turn, openness can significantly maximize the benefits of Scrum framework. Read the article and check our ideas and suggestions for improving collaboration and having an open approach.

Openness in Scrum

Learn more about 5 scrum values

In a kitchen somewhere in the world…

An example of a situation that could happen in any project.

Before Sprint Planning, two developers go to the kitchen for coffee. One of them is exhausted and has bags under his eyes.

“So, how’s it going?” – the other guy asks him.

“You’d better not say anything, last time the PO insisted on finishing that dumb chat function before anything else. It makes no sense at this stage, but I’ve been working overtime to get it done. He even texts me after hours to check on my work! I sleep 4 hours a night and I wonder what he’ll come up with today.”

“Me too. This PO is a strange man, bud” – adding, in a whisper – “a friend of mine told me he is the CEO’s brother-in-law…”

“That’s why I keep quiet in meetings. But I feel like I am done with people like him” – he replies, taking a sip of coffee and rubbing his tired eyes – “but you know what? I got an interesting job offer yesterday. Cool tech stack, cool people, and no idiots.”

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The importance of openness in Agile projects

It is not only the Scrum value of openness which is disrespected in the above conversation. The fact that two developers are gossiping and insulting the PO means they have no respect for him. They do not share their doubts with colleagues so it seems they do not trust them, and the fear of the PO’s connections may indicate they lack the courage to express their opinion about prioritizing the Sprint Backlog and reveal micromanagement practices. The fact that the developer works overtime does not prove his commitment or focus but rather suggests he misunderstands these values or is overloaded with tasks or lacks knowledge. How different could their work be if only they shared their thoughts with colleagues openly, asked for help, and took measures hand in hand, as a team?

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The Scrum value of openness

What does ‘success’ mean? Is it the completion of a given functionality in Sprint and customer satisfaction?

As per the Scrum Guide, the “successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living five values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage”. Openness is one of the five values that help to build the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. We mentioned that adopting openness will help the Scrum team maximize the value of Scrum. Let’s look at this in more detail and think about what every team member can do to make openness a fact.

Openness in the Development Team

The Development Team is responsible for creating valuable parts of the product in every Sprint. Developers can show openness not only through transparent communication, which was lacking in our imaginary dialogue above. Openness also means being frank in terms of any obstacles, updates and challenges encountered in the project. Agile working methods are based on honesty and continuous feedback, but also on sharing your skills and good practices. A team of developers who sincerely and openly cooperate with stakeholders achieves not only the planned increment but also greater transparency.

How does a Scrum Master demonstrate openness?

Scrum is said to be easy. The role of the Scrum Master might also seem so at first glance. The truth is quite the opposite. Not only is he a facilitator, servant-leader, and coach, but very often he’s also a companion who is always there to offer help to any developer. A Scrum Master encourages open communication during the Daily Scrum, Sprint Retrospective, and Sprint Review and demonstrates openness by respecting team decisions. He is there to ask, not to criticize.

What about a Product Owner and openness? 

The Product Owner is not only responsible for the Product Backlog and prioritizing tasks. His role also requires openness and promoting the values of Scrum. The Product Owner fulfills this requirement by regularly sharing the product vision and business expectations with the development team. Openness also means that a PO is available to answer developers’ questions and clear up any doubts which may arise. He is there to provide (and receive!) feedback and discuss ideas for improvement. All this helps to develop teamwork and results in better transparency in the project.

Read also:

Benefits of Openness

  • Improved creativity – teams that are open to change attain better results. This is particularly true in teams that focus on diversity and inclusion. Different points of view and backgrounds inspire inventiveness.
  • Common trust – openness creates a friendly environment that enables team members to share their ideas. Psychological safety makes them feel they can talk freely and that they won’t be punished for expressing different (even unwelcome) opinions.
  • Transparent collaboration – thanks to openness, business and stakeholders get a clear understanding of what the team is working on and what progress they have made in the project.
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Open interactions = better transparency

Now that we have a better understanding of the team’s contribution to creating openness, let’s quote the Scrum Guide again:

“The emergent process and work must be visible to those performing the work as well as those receiving the work. With Scrum, important decisions are based on the perceived state of its three formal artifacts. Artifacts that have low transparency can lead to decisions that diminish the value and increase risk”.

So how do we ensure open interaction? Some of the best practices include using visual tracking tools, project management tools and holding regular meetings to keep track of progress.

But let’s not forget about informal methods, which still help to build a transparent environment, albeit indirectly. Meetings outside of work, casual chats, and anything that allows people to get to know each other will work to your advantage. Even if your Scrum team is dispersed or works remotely, nowadays, thanks to technology, you have a myriad of opportunities to address this matter.

Summary

According to the 2022 State of Agile survey, in which almost 3,000 people participated, Scrum is the most widely used agile framework in companies. Its popularity rose to 87% (a 14% increase compared to the previous study).

At the same time, almost 90% of respondents admit that highly functioning agile teams are characterized by a clear culture and people-centric values. Scrum values fit into this model. Of these, openness plays an important role – whether in communicating or adopting attitudes that bring teams closer to success. Openness is crucial as it enables us to achieve the Sprint Goal transparently and efficiently. If you employ Scrum but feel you are not maximizing its potential, don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are many options, from external Scrum Teams to certified Agile coaches, that can remove barriers to making progress.

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