Commitment and the Comfort Zone

May 23, 2011 at 5:09 am 5 comments


There are issues with the commitment concept in Scrum. Even Ken Schwaber is thinking about replacing “Commitment” with “Forecast”. While I have seen some of the described problems I think the potential of the commitment concept outweights it’s flaws. Here is a story that illustrates one powerful aspect of commitments:

At it-agile we created a Scrum team to restructure some aspects of our software development unit. For the first Sprint the Sprint Goal made it necessary to interview customers. So far so good.

But when I was at the site of a coaching client with potential interview partners it wasn’t that easy. I had a full email inbox and it was hard to get in touch with the potential interview partners. It would have been much more comfortable to postpone the interviews. And if I hadn’t committed to the Sprint Goal I would have postponed the interviews. But the commitment made me focus on what really mattered and it pulled me out of my comfort zone and do the interviews. And in the end it was the right thing to do. Learning something about customers was much more valuable than reading emails.

In this story my commitment to the Sprint Goal made me leave my comfort zone.

This is just one of the possible positive aspects of the commitment concept done right. Others include building trust, having an additional feedback mechanism, create focus etc.

Entry filed under: it-agile-blog-planet. Tags: .

Buchtipp: “Die Kraft von Scrum” Envisioning done right

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Markus Gärtner  |  May 23, 2011 at 7:11 am

    There is one aspect in commitment that we must not forget about: personal preferences. For some people commitments work, for some people the notion of a commitment leads to resistance. As Michael Bolton points out in The Gift of Tme, for any abstract X X is defined as X to some person. This holds also for commitment. We better not forget about this in a human-centered softwae decelopment method.

    As Jerry Weinberg would put it: the problenis not the commitment or not, but rather your reaction to it. You choseto value your commitment higher than your mails, but would everybode do this as well?

  • 2. stefanroock  |  May 23, 2011 at 8:10 am

    You are right. If someone would value email reading higher than reaching the Sprint Goal this will become apparent at the Sprint Planning or Sprint Review latest. Then we have something we can inspect and adapt upon.

  • 3. Matthias Lübken  |  May 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

    + 1 for keeping commitment.
    For me it’s an essential part of the Sprint planning and getting the team into the planning process. “We commit to Stories A,B and C” just expresses the team emphasis. And I find the conversation in the retrospective much easier if I start with “we broke our commitment” instead of “our forecast was wrong”.

  • 4. romanpichler  |  June 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    The term “commitment” makes me think of riding my bike: When I commit to a jump or to a drop then I’ll go for it. There is no room for “maybe” or for faking it. Otherwise I’ll crash – ouch! The same is true for the team: It should ensure that it’s within its capabilities to reach the goal, and then commit, go for it, and have fun🙂

  • 5. Markus Andrezak  |  July 21, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Of course, I do love and understand the bike example😉

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