What is a commitment anyway?

Or: The difference between “having committed to something” and “being committed to something.”

This is not about the old story of the chicken and the pig who want to open a restaurant. Even though Ken Schwaber used this adage to illustrate the difference between commitment and involvement in the early days of Scrum, it is no longer part of the canon.

The version history of the scrum guide makes that quite explicit:

“Development Teams do not commit to completing the work planned during a Sprint Planning Meeting. The Development Team creates a forecast of work it believes will be done, but that forecast will change as more becomes known throughout the Sprint.”

Still I see the term “commitment of the team” quite often. In publications and in ‘real life.’

I have to confess, I am even guilty of using it myself from time to time.

Like with many things in the world, the question is how we use them. In this case it is the question of how we use the term – and the concept – commitment?

There is a fine line, but a very important distinction in who does the committing. A while back I heard some General in a movie say that he “committed 20 troops” to some task. In yet another movie a team member explained the success of his team with the fact that “the whole team was committed to the cause.” So does that mean that the 20 people the General committed to the task will feel commitment to the task and thus succeed? Probably not.

And yet the statement “The team is committed to the sprint goal” is syntactically the same wether the team has committed to the sprint goal (e.g. each team member bought into it) or has been committed to the sprint goal (e.g. some higher authority spoke on behalf of the team without their consent).

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

P.S.: But then again you might want to consider exchanging iteration based approaches with a flow-based concept and cadences and then you might consider “Department Y will be able to sell product X via channel C” as an idea for a MMF (Minimum Marketable Feature(set))

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