Benefits of Scrum: How Scrum Leads to Happy Teams

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Scrum" by Jeff Sutherland. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the main benefits of Scrum? Can the Scrum method really lead to happier teams?

Scrum is a framework created by Jeff Sutherland made to help people and organizations efficiently solve complex problems with creative solutions. The Scrum method is also designed to create happy, productive, and creative teams.

Here’s a look at the benefits of the Scrum method.

How Scrum Makes Happy Teams

Because a happy team is more productive, the Scrum framework is designed to build and maintain happiness. Here are some of the benefits of Scrum and how it leads to happy teams:

1. Consistent Improvement

A central idea of Scrum is to always be looking for ways to improve. Constant improvement is also a contributing factor to happiness.

After achieving a certain level of success, Sutherland says it’s common for a team to become complacent. The team has made great progress and vastly increased their productivity using Scrum. They may think they’ve improved enough. This can lead to a leveling off of productivity, which is not only bad for the continued success of the team, it’s bad for each individual’s happiness.

Happiness comes from striving toward greatness—finding value in everyday work while building something that will make a positive impact in the future. 

Purpose Prevents Complacency

Many experts have also noted that a team with a strong sense of purpose is less likely to become complacent. In Grit, psychologist Angela Duckworth equates purpose with happiness. She notes that while not everyone will find their job personally fulfilling, there are ways to develop or find purpose in your work

People generally develop purpose at work through a three-part process:
1. They are interested in a job for selfish reasons.
2. They become better at the job through practice.
3. They start to see how their work benefits others and begin to prioritize other people before themselves.

Duckworth also gives three ways to help you find purpose in your current job:

1. Think about how your job benefits others and contributes to society. Look at the ways you help people with your work, and you may find yourself happy to do things you previously dreaded.
2. Change your work to more closely align with your interests and values. Even if you feel your job isn’t a great benefit to society, you may find that with a few tweaks it can be more beneficial to your personal growth.
3. Find a role model. Identify someone who has similar values and whose work you admire. This will show that it’s possible to have a meaningful and impactful working life.

2. Transparency

Sutherland argues that clear and open communication leads to a happy workforce. To avoid miscommunication and wasted time, it should be clear what everyone is working on and how they are all working toward a common goal. In Scrum, everyone is allowed and encouraged to attend every meeting. This keeps everything out in the open and everybody on the same page. 

Furthermore, everything should be made visible to everyone. The team’s plans, salaries, and expenses should all be laid out. This assures that nothing is kept secret, that there are no hidden agendas or hierarchical manipulations. Transparency helps build trust and keeps everyone working together on an undivided front. 

A transparent team will have the autonomy to work freely, the ability to improve regularly, and their purpose will always be at the forefront.

Building Trust

The transparency Sutherland recommends will result in trust, which many experts say lies at the heart of successful teams. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick M. Lencioni gives more insight into the ways an absence of trust between team members can negatively affect them. He defines trust as the ability to be vulnerable with one another. Without trust, team members will suppress their feelings, hide their weaknesses, and fall into the trap of workplace politics. They will be more likely to direct energy into unproductive activities, and less likely to ask for or offer help. Ultimately, a team without trust will be less happy and less productive.

To build trust, Lencioni gives some helpful advice:
Share personal stories. Simply getting to know someone will help you be more vulnerable around them.
Have the team identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This can help a person with low self-esteem gain confidence. It can also be an effective ego check for an overconfident team member.
As a leader, show your own vulnerability. A good leader will own up to mistakes and show the rest of the team that it’s ok to ask for help.

3. Happiness Through Connection

Another key element of Scrum is keeping the team connected to each other and to the customers. Humans are a naturally social species, so a feeling of togetherness is a crucial part of feeling happy. The Scrum method maintains this connectedness through its emphasis on teamwork and communication—in the way feedback and knowledge-sharing are encouraged, in how joint goals are established, and in how hierarchies are discouraged. 

This collaborative approach encourages bonding and eliminates competing interests within the team.

Promote Positive Relationships

The Leadership Challenge provides tips for facilitating positive relationships in the workplace. As you may notice, most of these are built into the Scrum framework. Here are four relatively easy things you can do to promote bonding between team members

1. Develop common goals: Encourage your team to share in a common purpose and make sure each individual knows how their work contributes to the overall objective. If the team shares a common purpose, individuals are more likely to help each other and see another’s achievements as a benefit to the team.
2. Promote reciprocity: Reciprocating another’s kindness or help is a foundational aspect of human interaction. Most people will naturally treat others as others treat them. As a leader, encourage your team to repay favors and offer help as much as possible. Also, be a role model in reciprocity. Don’t get stuck with the “not my job” attitude.
3. Reward joint effort: Prioritize collective success over individual success. When you do so, individuals will focus on group benefits and be less likely to withhold information from their teammates. Studies show group-based reward systems outperform individual-based systems. 
4. Encourage face-to-face interactions: Encourage in-person interactions as much as possible. This will help establish trust and a collaborative mentality between employees. It will also help humanize each individual, whereas communication through email or phone may not have the same effect. If in-person meetings aren’t possible, make sure virtual meetings are held through webcams and that everyone keeps their cameras on.
Benefits of Scrum: How Scrum Leads to Happy Teams

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  • Why the "Waterfall Method" leads to inefficiency and wasted money
  • An explanation of the Scrum method and details on how to implement it
  • How to use Sprints to get more work done

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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