The Right Spirit

Scrum is a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products. Scrum provides a minimum set of boundaries within which teams can work together to address complex adaptive problems, and, ultimately, unleash their innate creativity to produce products and services of the highest possible value.

Scrum could be described as a game – the rules of which are outlined in the Scrum Guide. The Scrum guide explains the Scrum roles and how each can serve and be served by the others. Scrum encourages desirable team-focused behaviour and interactions by offering a structure of regular “events” each with a distinct purpose – its inclusion within the framework based on many decades of empirical data and academic study.

But what is a framework, even a framework built on solid principles, without an underpinning set of values to give meaning? To bring it to life. Scrum takes care of that for you, too. Scrum’s success depends on you being able to somehow embody the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect. Scrum even offers a servant leader, a guide, someone to work with you, to encourage and help you become more proficient in living these values.


What Scrum does not, should not, and indeed cannot provide, is discipline. I’m not talking about the type of discipline that you would associate with order and authority, with command and control, I’m talking about self-discipline.

Last summer I came across a newspaper article about a Gateshead teen who had won a place at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy. The Bolshoi is regarded as one of the world’s best dance schools. To earn her place, Rachel Armstrong trained relentlessly for years – getting up each day at 5.30 am to train and travelling the 600-mile round-trip from her North East home up to London’s Covent Garden to dance with the Royal Ballet each weekend.

To put this achievement into perspective, in the past 100 years, only a small number of British dancers have been accepted to the Bolshoi. And, once there, she will face a gruelling regime of early starts, strict diet, hour upon hour of demanding dance lessons, strength training, acting lessons, all conducted in Russian. Only three British dancers have ever graduated from Bolshoi.

In the article, her dance teacher, Hilda Affleck, was quoted as saying that Rachel was not the best dancer to start with she had “lots of faults but the right spirit”. With few resources, but lots of passion, tremendous willpower, and self-discipline Rachel was able to achieve something almost impossible.

The Rest is Up to You

Becoming more proficient in living the five values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect will surely help you receive the rewards that can be gained from engaging in human centred ways of working.

However, these benefits will be fully realised only when you come at things from a new perspective – with a new mindset. Let go of your reliance on others, tools, process, and certainty. Scrum is not a silver bullet. It will not fix things for you. Only you can do that. Only you can work hard towards becoming a master of your craft. You yourself need to commit to approaching your work with a sense of openness, curiosity and excitement. You will need to find the self-discipline that allows you to overcome your weaknesses, hone your strengths, let go of your ego, and move towards a new paradigm.

Until you find the right spirit and a sense of discipline, all the benefits that Scrum and almost anything else has to offer for that matter will continue to seep through the cracks. Scrum provides a framework. The rest is up to you.


The Scrum Guide. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. November 2017. Web.

“Teen ballet dancer speaks of joy after being accepted into Bolshoi Academy” Cameron Charters. July 2018. Web & Print.


Go to the profile of Paul Marshall

‘I help teams re-frame how they think about product development.’

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