Within RES Software we organize every month guild sessions. A guild session is a meeting with all the professionals who work in a certain area or people who are interested in this area. We have for example guild sessions for developers, testers and scrum masters.
Every guild organizes the sessions differently. The goal of a guild session is to exchange experiences and grow knowledge in that area. It is not an update meeting about the projects where everybody is involved in.
In the Scrum master guild every participant has to facilitate a meeting. It was my turn to organize the guild session of last month.
I decided to discuss the topic commitment. Commitment in a Scrum context. We had a great discussion and it made some people think about commitment. I would like to share the session with you and maybe you also start thinking about the word commitment.
What is commitment for you? Take a few minutes to describe the word commitment for you. Is a commitment equal to a promise? Is a commitment mandatory? Can you deviate from a commitment?
When you search in Google on the definition of commitment you will get the following definitions:
I think the last definition comes most close to the definition as most people use it in a Scrum environment. However, should a commitment restricts freedom of action?
For most people working with Scrum the definition is something like: “Sprint commitment means, that a team promised to finish a fixed number of stories in the next iteration.”
I assume you have some experience with Scrum or software development in general. How many of the following situations do you recognize?
To summarize the above, unexpected things can and will happen! That makes software development fun and challenging 😉 However, why do we ask a development team to make commitment when we now these unexpected things can and will happen?
In the Netherlands we always talk about the weather. You want to start a conversation, just mention the weather. The weatherman gives a forecast several times a day for the next hours, days and weeks, Why does he give a forecast and not a commitment? Too many factors that will influence the weather.
It will be no surprise this will have a negative impact on the morale of the team. They did everything what is possible but because of unexpected things they were not able to deliver their commitment. That is not fair!
Another thing that can happen in the next iteration is that a team will take shortcuts in the quality. Management expects a team to make their commitment, so the team will make their commitment…
I am not unique, more people realize giving a commitment for an iteration is a bad thing. In the begin Scrum talked about commitment. In the current Scrum Guide commitment has been changed into forecast! The Scrum Guide states:
“During the Sprint Planning the Development team works to forecast the functionality that will be developed during the Sprint”.
The following process is described in the Scrum guide:
“After the Development Team forecasts the Product Backlog items it will deliver in the Sprint, the Scrum Team crafts a Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is an objective that will be met within the Sprint through the implementation of the Product Backlog, and it provide guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment.”
Not a word about commitment anymore!
The product owner and management should care about predictability. It is like a long-term stock investor, they don’t care so much about fluctuations with a day, week or even month, they care about the stock performance over a quarter or a year.
A team should become a reliable partner that is able to forecast their work for several sprints. This will give the business the opportunity to make a forecast for the release. A team should be demotivated by the fact they don’t meet their commitment for one sprint.
A nice quote that I found on the Internet about this topic:
Wait, don’t forget you can the word commitment! Commitment is very important. I want teams to commit to:
Commit should be done on behavior, not on the outcome of process.
What is your opinion about commitment?