Using the Values Tree to Guide Teams Toward High Performance

Metaphor is a powerful thing. "I'm the glue that holds this family together."

"I'm the pebble in your shoe, reminding you to tread lightly."

"I am a thousand candles lighting the way."

"I am a bird soaring above it all."

Coaches have known this for a long time.  In fact, using metaphor is a skill taught in professional coaching courses, such as the ones I take.  Like so many other coaching skills I'm picking up for coaching coaches one-on-one, I find that metaphor is just as powerful for teams as it is for individuals.

The metaphor of the Scrum Values Tree has been transformative and lasting for those I've shared it with.  I used it in a Certified Scrum Master course I co-facilitated with Mike Vizdos recently.  The students referred to it throughout the rest of the course - it was sticky.  (If you don't know Mike, check out his amazingly popular blog, Implementing Scrum).

Scrum Values TreeI also use this when I work more long-term with teams.  Here's what I do:  I draw this tree from the roots up as I teach the meaning of the Scrum values and list the characteristics of high performance.   The Scrum Values, simply and beautifully given to us by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle are:

Commitment Be willing to commit to a goal.  Scrum provides people all the authority they need to meet their commitments.

Focus Do your job. Focus all your efforts and skills on doing the work that you’ve committed to doing. Don’t worry about anything else.

Openness Scrum keeps everything about a project visible to everyone.

Respect Individuals are shaped by their background and their experiences. It is important to respect the different people who comprise a team.

Courage Have the courage to commit, to act, to be open and to expect respect.

If the roots are strong they nourish the tree and the tree grows up to the sky - straighter and taller.  It sprouts leaves that gather in more and more light.   As the leaves gather light they, in turn, nourish the tree.  Everything grows stronger, taller, greener.  The tree has become an inviting place and the team notices they have sprouted some things themselves - the characteristics of high collaboration and high performance (from Jean Tabaka).

  • They are self-organizing rather than role or title based
  • They are empowered to make decisions
  • They truly believe that, as a team, they can solve any problem
  • They are committed to team success versus success at any cost
  • The team owns its decisions and commitments
  • Trust, versus fear or anger, motivates them
  • They are consensus-driven, with full divergence and then convergence
  • And they live in a world of constant constructive disagreement

These are the leaves of the tree.  If the roots are strong and the leaves gather in enough light the tree will bear fruit.  These are the fruits of high performance.  The first fruits to come are these: you get business value faster, then you get the right business value.   As the values roots and high performance leaves continue to grow, the team may even bear the fruit of astonishing results - the kind that causes a business to leapfrog its competition.  The kind Scrum was meant to create.  Through these, two other fruits appear: a team that can truly do anything and a team that offers room for team and individual growth.  These two fruits are the ones that rejuvenate the whole tree and give back again and again.  They are the fuel for sustainable growth.

Try drawing this tree and saying these words to your teams.  Ask them, "Where are your roots weak?"  "What leaves do you want to work on?"  "Are you getting any fruits?"  Let their answers be a guide toward high performance - one step (or value) at a time.

Maybe, just maybe, you'll hear them say things like these beauties:

"We can grow if we strengthen our roots."

"We're a tree, we can bend."

"The wind may shake us but it will not break us."

Try it, and let us all know what happens.

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