How values and behaviors impact teams

The best way to learn something is to teach it. Today, while teaching a Scrum class, I learned something important: the truth hurts and requires a commitment to values. The Scrum values are respect, openness, courage, focus and commitment.  As a team, we explored these and in doing so it helped cement my thinking. 

Respect – in his book Software for Your Head, Jim McCarthy introduces a pattern called Team = Product. Digging deeper into this reveals some deep truths – that high quality products are often the result of a high performing team. And of course it’s not just products – it is also service teams, sports teams etc.

Perhaps a bigger picture view might conclude “good team = good business”.  And what makes a good team? Well, respect is a good starting point. Respect for one another, respect for different opinions, respect for people’s feelings and respect that other people might come to a situation from a different and equally valid perspective.

Recently, I have seen members of teams destroy morale by displaying a simple lack of respect. It often comes when one person attempts to control the conversation to meet their needs at the expense of the teams, by forcing their opinion.  The net result is extremely destructive. There is typically a corresponding impact, not only the team’s productivity, but also the respect the team then has for that person. In other words, the classic bad quadrant of negotiation – at attempt to create loose-win results in loose-loose.


Openness and transparency trump politics. Those with the most to lose fear transparency and those with nothing to lose don’t.  Openness can take many forms, from ensuring everyone is on the same page with the work that we do, to being prepared to confront one another about “below the line” behaviour.  And this is a team endeavour, not an individual one. Failing to confront poor behaviour is akin to condoning it. Don’t. Being open with one another and call out the poor behaviour for what it is – unacceptable. This in turns sets a tone and a commitment for what is and isn’t acceptable in our group. From this flows powerful teams.  A lack of openness corrodes teams. Nobody said this would be easy!

Focus is about keeping on track – to working on each thing completely and ensuring it is completely done and to remaining engaged with your team. Often tools help with this (whiteboards, graphs) and sometimes it is behaviour that helps with this (being prepared to challenge on another without fear of adversity).

Commitment is often interleaved with honesty; commitment to the team and its values, commitment to the product and its use, commitment to change. Many people struggle with commitment due to the change required. Often, commitment to a team-based approach challenges people, especially those used to being “in charge” or those who are not amiable by nature.  Change is hard and requires courage.

Courage is often about saying no when you believe things aren’t right. Often, courage means upsetting the status quo. Sometimes, courage results in upsetting people for the greater good.  However courage is many faceted – often courage also applies to seeing it through despite the challenges and being prepared to challenge yourself and let go of your ego.  Perhaps you were wrong after all?


All these values are inter-linked, that is, openness requires courage and respect. Focus requires commitment and courage.


What are your experiences with values and behaviours and how they impact teams?


  1. I totally agree, Colart. I would also like to put forward an aspect that is often missed when team dynamics is discussed – fun!

    A team that laughs together, bond in a way that produces relationships that can endure the stresses of differing viewpoints and change.

    • Thanks Pete. It’s actually Ed’s blog that Colart tweeted but thanks for the feedback! To me its all about team 🙂

  2. I’m currently stdniyug my Bachelor if IT, at Otago Polytech.We do a lot of pair-programming, they’re starting to try and push it.I must say though, that I really do enjoy it.I find that it helps that if you don’t know something, the other person may do.While also, everybody thinks differently, so your partner may think of something that may improve your code’s efficiency, or fix a bug.


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