Smart Thinking

Scrum Values and High Performance Agile Teams

The Scrum Values and techniques ScrumMasters can use to improve Commitment, Courage, Respect, Openness and Focus in the creation of high performing teams.

The Scrum Values

As Scrum Masters we make Commitments to ourselves and our team mates to deliver excellence. We use Courage to challenge received wisdom and cultural norms. We demand Respect and embrace diversity and understand its power to unleash creativity and innovation. We are Open in the pursuit of truth and speak truth to power. We embrace transparency and ensure decision making is inclusive. We have a laser Focus on delivery and continuous improvement. We evangelise the Scrum Values and coach our teams to ever expand personal and team capabilities.

We are knowledge seekers, experimenters, ready to try and fail – but most importantly driven to learn, adjust and excel.

Scrum Code of Ethics / Scrum Values

The Scrum Values: Commitment, Courage, Respect, Openness and Focus. (Diagram: Steve Nimmons)

Scrum – Easy to Understand, Hard to do

Scrum is often described as ‘easy to understand, hard to do’. The Scrum Guide is an excellent primer for beginners and describes the Scrum framework at an easily digestible level. Scrum and the development of high performance Agile teams poses an interesting challenge for the Scrum Master. It is a given that we must have an excellent knowledge and understanding of the Scrum Framework and have a passion to ‘live’ the Scrum Values and coach others to do likewise.

The savvy Scrum Master is continuously looking for insight into how to improve team dynamics, understand the psychology of people and teams and to help their Product Owners clearly articulate Product Visions in engaging ways (not only to business stakeholders, but also internal delivery teams).

Scrum Values Explained
Exploring the Scrum Values (Diagram: Steve Nimmons) (note the tickets above are colour coded by Scrum Value)

Scrum Values:


Commitment is often easiest to improve when there are clear (achievable) goals. I highly recommend reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s classic book on Flow, both in the context of improving Commitment and Focus. Viktor Frankl’s ideas on Logotherapy are also a fascinating resource for a fuller exploration of meaning and personal motivation. Also be familiar with the work of Abraham Maslow and his eponymous ‘Hierarchy of Needs‘. There is often a clear link between commitment and understanding. Go heavy on simple visualisations of product vision to drive engagement. I find rich pictures and many aspects of Soft Systems Methodology helpful (refer to the work of Peter Checkland for further reading.)

Flow: The Psychology of Happiness


For me, this is the fearlessness to reject conformity. Read widely from classical antiquity – especially Aristotle. See if you can uncover the similarities between Scrum Values and Aristotelian Virtues. When your Scrum Teams are performing, you have probably hit the sweet spot of Aristotle’s Golden Mean. Sun Tzu has perhaps become something of a management cliche, but read Carl von Clausewitz, Machiavelli, Baltasar Gracian and Nassim Taleb. Think the ways others don’t and don’t be afraid to tell them (but respectfully!).


I recently read Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s excellent book on Executive Presence. Sylvia describes pressures to conform to cultural norms within certain US businesses. She outlines the serious limitations that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ mentality is having on innovation within these companies. Where diversity is repressed, so too is innovation.

I recommend reading books including Susan Cain’s Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a  World that can’t stop talking (also check out Quiet Revolution), Howard Gardner’s ‘Multiple Intelligences‘, and the now ubiquitous Emotional Intelligence from Daniel Goleman. These books will help you understand the limitations of concepts such as IQ, the reality of multiple intelligences and how Extroverts and Introverts excel in different contexts.

If ideas or opinions are not being heard or respected, try techniques like Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to encourage more structure and participation.


Openness requires trust and ideally a culture that views ‘failure’ as simple learning opportunities. Reality can be somewhat different, but openness will only truly emerge when people feel they will not be victimised, punished, lambasted or ridiculed. Put away the dark arts of MachiavelliBaltasar Gracian and the ‘management speak re-framing’ of NLP. Go really ‘right of arc’ on Openness. By all means read Dale Carnegie, but challenge yourself with negotiation theory and even study peace processes and how openness is achieved in negotiations with former enemies.


As a Scrum Master passionate about getting the best from everyone’s experience and interests I have found resources such as Gallup’s Strength Finder very helpful. It is also very useful to have a working knowledge of Myers Briggs and similar personality frameworks. If you want to go the full nine yards, the seminal books are from Carl Jung on Archetypes.

A great way to ‘focus the room’ is often with the right question. As the poet Solomon ibn Gabirol said:

A wise man’s question contains half the answer.

A book I have found very helpful is from leadership guru John Maxwell titled “Great Leaders ask Great Questions.” This will help you think through the best questions to ask, at the best times.

Focus also relates to Time Management and I recommend reading Brian Tracy‘s book “Eat that Frog” – a very simple, engaging and practical resource to help stop procrastination.

In Summary

Scrum Masters must live in fearless pursuit of excellence, using the Scrum Values as jumping off points into other disciplines and professions in search of ideas and re-usable patterns. I have given you a few threads to begin to explore. Agile is a life-long journey and I hope you enjoy and re-use what you discover along the path.

Scrum Values

Scrum Values Mindmap (Diagram: Steve Nimmons)

Steve Nimmons is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner and is a member of the Scrum Alliance.

By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.

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