Making decisions based on Scrum's values



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Values drive behavior. Scrum thrives on five values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage. As behavior also expresses values, Scrum is also expressed through these values. The Scrum Values are a Scrum Team’s compass as well as its barometer.

Scrum Values

Successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living five values: [1]

  1. Commitment
  2. Focus
  3. Openness
  4. Respect
  5. Courage

These values give direction to the Scrum Team with regard to their work, actions and behaviour.

Rules-Based vs. Values-Based Decision Making

Two approaches to decision making are rules-based and values-based.

Rules-based decision making

When basing decisions on rules, we require prescriptive direction given to those in the organisation. Such an approach may have benefits (e.g.  lack of ambiguity where rules apply, faster application for new starters) but is detrimental if the organisation wishes to cultivate self-managing teams.

Values-based decision making

When decisions are based of values, individuals are empowered to utilise their own judgement. In managing traffic, traffic lights and roundabouts are analogous to rules and values-based decision making: [2]

  • Traffic lights – decisions are not made by those actively involved in the process, nor made on the basis of emergent information.
  • Roundabouts – decisions are made by those participating in the process, and made based on current information.

The latter is more consistent with Scrum values as we respect others to make value-based decisions, and have the courage to do so.

Team Charter

A Team Charter or Team Canvas is an excellent method for helping a team create a social contract that reinforce certain behaviours over others so that they reflect the values the team aspires to.

[3] When constructing a Team Charter, the Scrum values should be incorporated within the team’s values. For example:


How do we behave at meetings?

  • We expect team members to have the courage to hold each other to account to start meetings on time.
  • We create openness by speaking up when issues impact our focus and commitment.
  • It's not the Scrum Master's job to be the meeting police.
  • We have a jar where late people put in $1 and then we decide every 6 months what charity to give the contents of the jar to.

How do we make decisions and state our options?

  • We respect those in our team who have more experience.
  • We respect that the Product Owner sets the direction of our work.
  • We expect everyone to focus on the team's goal first over their own individual needs.
  • We respect that the Scrum Master is here to support us to remove impediments ourselves.

How do we ask which options align more strongly with Scrum's values?

  • We choose options that helps us commit to our Spring Goal and to quality?
  • We choose options that increase our focus and put aside options that decrease our focus.

Review the Team Charter at about every 6-months at a Retrospective to assess whether it needs adjustments to more strongly encourage a values-based approach to team work.

What to Watch Out For

  • Immature teams need guidance and support for transitioning to value-based decision making. 
  • Living the values may need to conflict within the organisation. Be aware of potential conflict and manage accordingly.
  • Leaders should speak up when there are behaviours inconsistent with Scrum values. This may relate to behaviours from managers. Some organisations are not culturally ready to question management.

Actions to Try

  • Provide examples of behaviours that embody values so that it is not simply an abstract concept for team members.
  • Celebrate and acknowledge actions that embody Scrum values. Kudo cards are one tool that teams can employ. [4]


1. Sutherland, J. & Schwaber, K. (2020) The 2020 Scrum Guide (TM).
2. Bogsnes, B. & Olsson, R. (2019) Beyond Budgeting – Business agility in practice.
4. Appelo, J. Kudo Box & Kudo Cards.
5. Verheyen, G. (2021) The Value in the Scrum Values.

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