Logos Are Not Enough
Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that many companies have felt compelled to acknowledge that the LGBTQIA+ community exists at all. It is encouraging that it even happens. In fact, that was where I started in my own thinking about acknowledging pride month. Let’s make a logo and be visibly supportive of our fellow humans, but the more we discussed it, the more I realized it wasn’t really the kind of contribution that I wanted to make. It’s too easy. It’s too little.
It’s not about colorful logos gracing email signatures for one month out of the year; this is more important. It’s about fostering a culture that acknowledges that our differences are our strengths, our similarities are catalysts, and keeping our focus on what matters for the task at hand.
At Scrum Inc., we teach organizations to work using the Scrum Framework. On team after team, I’ve seen the emergence of collaborative environments that allow people to create a culture based on a mindset of inclusion.
Scrum builds culture through structures and practices. We are intentional and systematic about creating a flat working environment. We want power dynamics far from discussions about how to work so that the best IDEA is what wins arguments, not the loudest voice or the most impressive title.
At Scrum Inc., our environment and policies reflect a common set of values. Almost every company has its core values. The difference is that ours are rooted in our “product,” good Scrum, so we talk about them almost daily in some form. They are top-of-mind. And, when you observe them for any significant period, you’ll notice that ALL teams that use the Scrum Framework and are very successful with it have some common themes in their behavior.
The Scrum Framework has consolidated these common themes into the Scrum Values. They are Commitment, Focus, Courage, Openness, and Respect. Those values do an excellent job of capturing something difficult to encapsulate, and those same values have defined our working culture at Scrum Inc., and on every team I’ve been on for the past four years.
Removing prejudice from the world requires a collective effort renewed constantly. “Othering” is still present all around us and, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s in us too. Pushing ourselves to look past inherent and unconscious bias takes time, but it’s easier to do when surrounded by great people who are different than you.
Diversity is important because it makes us better as a group, and as a company. Perspectives that are different from what is familiar stretch us and challenge us. That is essential for combating ignorance and intolerance. It seems today, more than ever, we’re not listening to each other as a society. Ignorance cannot be allowed to inform behavior in a modern company.
In Scrum, we work as a team. The smallest unit to which work is ever assigned is the team, not the individual. That shift in thinking gets us out of the mindset that people are tools for getting work done. Sure, this person was hired as a designer, but if they have a secret passion for coding, why deny them that opportunity? In a Scrum team, you can explore those parts of you that don’t perfectly fit your job description. And this extends beyond skills.
We emphasize thinking of people as people when we take away the dedicated “role” that many orgs use to define employees. In Scrum, there are only three roles: Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team Member. That idea, that the people around us aren’t just tools to move work through the system, is helpful in making it easier to bring your whole self to work. And it turns out that this kind of approach doesn’t just make people more productive, it makes us happier.
In every Scrum team, we hold ourselves accountable for embodying the Scrum values, but we hold each other accountable as well. On my team at Scrum Inc., we call it “calling each other in” (as opposed to calling someone out). We picked that up from Nadia Ramadan Jones of Culture Cipher Consulting, our DE&I trainer. It’s important. Ignorance and intolerance are only able to proliferate when they’re not confronted. When we see something that isn’t ok, we do something about it. That often starts with making the issues visible and talking about them.
Having a set of values to reference can keep this conversation from getting combative. It’s about something we all agree is important, the values, not about any judgment around something you’ve done. We ask a lot of questions; we are constantly learning about each other’s worlds. That’s important if you want to build a deeper relationship. That takes a TON of courage.
To share what you really think you must be willing to risk being wrong. Perhaps more than any other Scrum value, openness is essential to creating a positive working environment. It’s interesting to see how interdependent the values are. They support and reinforce one another. To have openness in the workplace, you must leverage an environment of courage and of respect.
Respect is the bottom line. It builds the openness we depend on, but it is at the core of the message for Pride Month in particular. Tolerance is a terrible term for what makes a culture more inclusive. A healthy group doesn’t tolerate differences. We must embrace them and celebrate them. That comes from fundamental respect. It’s respect that underpins how we deal with our differences. We all must start from that respect.
Tolerance is a terrible term for what makes a culture more inclusive. A healthy group doesn’t tolerate differences. We must embrace them and celebrate them.
Maintaining the kind of culture that creates inclusion is an ongoing effort. By using the Scrum values any organization can create the kinds of conversations equity requires, not just for the month of June, but every day, all year long. If we really want to see a change in the world we have to actively seek these conversations even (maybe especially) when they make us uncomfortable.
Ok, there. Now, we can do the rainbow logo thing.
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