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Scrum Values: Have the Courage to Lose Sight


A sailboat on the open seaFrench author André Gide once said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

In other words, to get to where you want to go, you need to let go of where you are.

That can be a frightening proposition for many people. 

It’s one thing to know that change needs to take place, it’s quite another to act on that need and make the change. This is a common cultural milestone for many organizations wanting to become more Agile in how they operate.

Organizations tend to work in a specific way, perhaps dating back to their founding. At one time that ‘way’ may have been very successful. But, as we have all seen, the pace of change has quickened. Organizations must not only adapt in bigger ways, but they must also do so faster and more frequently than at any time in history.  

So, the need for seeking out ‘new oceans’ is no longer another yearly strategic decision, it has become a requirement for organizational survival. 

As Mr. Gide points out, that takes courage.

It’s no coincidence that courage is one of the five Scrum Values.  


Understanding Courage 


 If Agile methods do anything for us, they make visible where change needs to happen. But often this change requires us ‘losing sight of the shoreline.’ 

How so?

Imagine you are the lead on a multi-million-dollar, multi-year, product development endeavor. The product will catapult your company into a new future that has employees and executives teaming with excitement. 

This will require the work of many teams and complex coordination across the entire company. It’s a big deal. 

To put a bright red bow on the illustration, it was also your grand idea.

Funding came in. We planned. We designed. We engaged and negotiated with third parties to help out. We hired more people and had a formal launch. The plan was in motion. 

But once we started down that path something interesting happened. We started learning. 

We learned that the original plan had some holes. We learned about unanticipated market changes. We learned about unanticipated competitor rollouts. What became obvious was that we needed to do something different than what we had originally planned. 

What YOU had originally planned. All eyes are on you as the lead. Everyone knows something needs to change but only one person can make that call.

“We’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it”, you might say. “We’ve been successful for years by holding to our course of action and being stronger-willed than our competition.” 

Secretly, you might be thinking, “If I change now, it might look like I didn’t know what I was doing in the first place.”

This is where it takes courage.

It’s one thing to recognize when evolution in our company, product, or even life needs to take place. It’s another thing, all together, to have the courage to adapt and make the changes needed.  

What gets in the way? 

Fear, pride perhaps. Fear of the unknown and a hit to our pride that the way we were convinced would be successful isn’t coming to fruition. 


But Courage Alone Is Not Enough


business people with scrum valuesThis is where the other Scrum values come into play.

The type of change we are talking about comes from a strong sense of openness. Being open to the change and not shielding our eyes from it. Being open to constructive critique knowing it’s only going to make us better long term. Being open to new ways of working that seem foreign. 

Once we have that openness, brought on through courage, we can identify the changes we need to make and ultimately commit

Commitment is a funny animal. It’s cultural. If you see leadership commit as a team, it becomes infectious throughout the company. When we take on any body of work, we commit to making it happen, barring a needed change. That’s where we are committed to the customer as well. 

While it might take dedication to commit to the old, it takes courage to commit and act on the new.

Once we have committed, we maintain a focus on our work. The focus aspect is another change in culture that takes courage. Are we willing to not deliver everything all at once and simply focus on a select few items? We often delude ourselves into thinking we are getting more done by doing more things. It takes courage to maintain a sense of focus on just the most important items.

Finally, there is the Scrum value of respect

Respect that comes in the form of clear, courageous, and sometimes disruptive, communication. Respect for the people who had the courage to make the tough choice to halt a project that simply wasn’t providing the value we thought. Respect for those who identified the need for change and had the courage to adapt when it happened. 

And, not least of which, respect for one another by having the courage to give the best version of you to the people who deserve it.

Yes, it takes courage to embrace each of those values.

Another famous quote is from Aristotle who said, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”

The same can be said for courage and the other Scrum Values. Becoming a more Agile organization takes courage. Changing the very foundation of how we work day-to-day takes courage. 

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Tell me…what’s your new ocean?