Punctuality and Scrum Values

Ken Schwaber’s book Agile Software Development Using Scrum has a section on Scrum values and explicitly lists five. They are Focus, Commitment, Courage, Openness and Respect. If you poke around on this blog you can find some writing I have done on these in the past.

Many organizations cannot do genuine and authentic Scrum. Why? Often, the reasons are the same reasons these organizations in general cannot execute on genuine punctuality. I notice that genuine and authentic punctuality instantly supports 3 of the 5 Scrum values: Focus, Commitment and Respect.

At a company where I am currently coaching, a VP-level leader implemented a voluntary opt-in Punctuality policy. You opt-in to the commitment. The policy is that if you are late, you pay $1 as a symbol of the culture valuing punctuality. Paying the $1 is an act that de-values tardiness;  it de-values “being late”.

An interesting set of dynamics immediately kicked in. There were many questions about ‘edge’ cases. First the definition of ‘late’ needed to be clarified. We discovered that the clocks throughout the building were all depicting incorrect times. These were synchronized. It was discovered that some clocks were slow and drifted to incorrect times after a few days. So a policy of using the time as depicted by the corporate network was used as the reference time.

Next the question of 1 second late came up, is this really ‘late’. 2 seconds etc. It was discussed and decided, yes, 1-2 seconds late is really, really late. being a bit early is the best policy, and encouraged.

Next the issue of ‘commuting’ from meeting to meeting came up. The operation spans several floors and each floor has like 20,000 square feet. So a policy of shortening meetings from 60 to 55 minutes was discussed.

But, since not everyone opted-in to valuing punctuality, this policy change was not simple to socialize throughout the organization and remains a problem to this day.

Next, the issue of meeting invites via Outlook scheduling was addressed. If you are invited to an Outlook meeting, the options are [Accept], [Decline] and [Tentative]. If you do not [Decline], are you obligated ?  This is an example of a fuzzy boundary and status. The issue was discussed.

A policy was defined that if you are invited, and do not explicitly decline, you are obligated to attend– on time. A policy about using [Tentative] was then defined.

As you can see, explicit examination is required for clarity in even the simplest policy definition for entire groups of people. It turns out that ‘simple’ punctuality is really not so simple after all.

Punctuality supports 3 of the 5 Scrum values: Focus, Commitment and Respect. These values associate with greatness in organizations. To be great, be great at being punctual.

It ain’t as easy as it looks. If your organization is not Punctual, you probably cannot do genuine and authentic Scrum. If on the other hand your culture strongly values Focus, Commitment and Respect, both Punctuality and Scrum are probably very simple to implement. At issue is “alignment” …..on “values”. These are very important concepts to grasp, for all organizations that intend to be great.