The question, “What have you committed to?”, gives many different associations. In my world as an Agile Coach I have reflected quite a lot about this in terms of the result of a planing session. What is the scope that we can commit to? For me the association to the word commitment is more of a burden than something that gives me a lot of energy. One voice raised from a team member in one team was
Commit, it is something that we have promised to deliver and we need to be ashamed if we cannot
Another answer to what association comes from commitment
Commitment, is for me a word that is connected with to be engaged and determined about something
Yeah, that is of course also a correct aspect of commitment, that I did not think of at first. Probably this is the most common association for those not being that deeply involved in software development and having to argue why we could not deliver. You had committed to it, right?
Committed people spread a lot of joy and generates a lot of energy. Their conviction and determination is something really powerful and that is something we are striving for. It increases the motivation both for those that have a true commitment and for those that collaborates with them.
Looking back at previous versions of the Scrum Guide1, the planned scope was something the team commits to. That description was abandoned since it resulted in bad behavior. Now the term commitment is back again, but in the meaning that people show commitment to
- Product Goal
- Sprint Goal
- Definition of Done
SAFe2 still holds on to this definition of commitment:
SAFe commitment has two parts:
- Teams agree to do everything reasonably in their power to meet the committed objectives
- During the course of the PI, if it’s discovered that some objectives are not achievable, then the teams agree to escalate immediately so that stakeholders are informed and corrective action can be taken
© Scaled Agile, Inc.
Why should we not act the same way for the uncommitted objectives?
Is there an alternative way to talk about this when it comes to parts of a plan or a forecast?
Yes, there is. The stakeholders will always want to know what they can expect after a planning session like sprint planning or PI Planning. The main problem is that we do not really know since we most of the time operate in a complex environment. I would suggest that we talk about expected items that the stakeholder can expect from us and other items that are uncertain. Not uncertain because of capacity issues, but because they are related to a risk that affects how likely it is that we really can deliver. If the risk is to high the item is uncertain.
The same person that i quoted in the beginning of this article also gave this reflection about a forecast
Forecast, it does not mean that we promise to deliver, but we will do our very best. The forecast is the best picture of what we think we can accomplish
We all want committed people around us, because that motivates us. Committed scope is something that can decrease our motivation and I hope that using the word commitment for scope is something that we could move away from. Instead use words like expected items for the scope that is planned for and that a stakeholder can expect to get and uncertain items for scope connected to a risk.