23 August 2019 | Produced by Kandy Shaw
Within a Scrum Team, trust and transparency are the ‘glue’ for effective collaboration. They create a no-blame culture and environment within which every team member feels confident to share ideas, discuss problems and, on occasion, share their mistakes. Being based on empiricism (knowledge gained from experience) Scrum methodology sees mistakes as lessons that can be learned from if they are discussed openly and honestly. It all comes down to trust in your fellow team members and the transparency that builds on that trust.
So, in this the first of two posts discussing the subject of trust and transparency, I will firstly define both terms and then focus on their value to Scrum Team collaboration. I will then follow with a second post that focuses on their value in terms of Scrum Artefacts.
The definition of trust is the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone…” (Oxford Dictionary). Trust encompasses consistency, competence, integrity, sincerity and commitment. Being part of a Scrum Team means that you need to trust and be trustworthy if you are to pool your skills and efforts with those of your colleagues. You need to have trust in them to do this and they need to have trust in you too if a ‘no blame culture’ is to be established.
Everyone in a Scrum Team needs to have a voice so that ideas, inspirations and innovations can be shared. As stated earlier, mistakes should also be shared because each member of the Team is equally accountable for the success of the project. (Remember, there is no hierarchy in a Scrum Team). To have the courage to admit to an honest mistake demands trust in your fellow teammates because you need to be confident that there will be no repercussions. Trust then, is the cornerstone of teamwork and is a reciprocal relationship.
The most basic definition of transparency within the workplace is to operate “in a way that creates openness …” (Glassdoor). Research has shown that above all, transparency is the number one contributor to employee satisfaction in the workplace. In a Scrum Team, being one of the 3 Pillars, transparency is vital to the process and without it, the Team would not be able to reach the end goal.
Transparency means presenting the facts as they are, openly and honestly. In a Scrum environment it allows the anticipation and elimination of impediments. Everyone from the CEO to the customer needs to be transparent so that everyone understands what is happening in the Sprint and who is doing what. Transparency strengthens trust and makes for more effective communication between all team members. It also strengthens confidence in the methodology employed. Within a Scrum Team then, it follows that both trust and transparency make for the most effective form of collaboration.
Lack of trust and transparency; being secretive or not being open and honest will have a negative impact both on team morale and team performance. Similarly, not sharing impending issues soon enough, or working on a problem alone will almost certainly result in more issues or problems. Keeping vital information to yourself will have a negative effect on both team morale and on the effectiveness of collaboration between all parties concerned. As I outlined in ‘What Makes a Good Scrum Master? The do’s and don’ts of the Scrum Master’s Role’, without effective collaboration the Scrum Team would fall apart.
Transparency then, is both a mindset and a behaviour. It is about sharing information and is a necessary requirement for:
- Trust to be strengthened
- Inspections of the product increment to be made
- Knowledge to be shared
- Honest feedback
- Future expectations to be planned and managed.
If an aspect of a project is proving troublesome, then you need to share it with the team so they can help put it right. After all, ‘a problem shared is a problem solved’. Everything related to the result, good or bad, should be transparent in a Scrum Team because High level transparency results in:
- Strengthening of trust and relationships
- Better decisions and better feedback
- Team members being aligned with each other
- The fostering of a culture of better engagement
- The reduction of risks and surprises
- Increased accountability
How to become more transparent:
- All team members should demonstrate transparency
- All should share information.
- Everyone should involve others in problem solving and decision-making
- Everyone should communicate changes quickly
This, as I said in the beginning is the first of two posts focusing on the importance of trust and transparency within Scrum methodology. I have given a general outline here of the importance of each to members of a Scrum Team in terms of effective collaboration and how without them the team would fall apart. In my follow up post, I will look at Scrum artefacts and how visibility is key to trust, transparency and effective collaboration, so look out for ‘Scrum Artefacts: Visibility makes for trust and transparency’.