John Ferguson puts it very neatly in his blog, and I agree that any habit that puts us at risk of taking on more than we can qualitatively deliver should be left out of our toolbox.  I myself do from time to time ask the team whether they can absolutely commit to the forecast planned, so I’m guilty of this myself.

But, as I discussed today with an Agile colleague; if it works for you and you’re sure that using this term is not having the averse effects described by John, then by all means, do what works best in your situation. In my own experience, I have never experienced a team pressured into taking on more work by being asked for commitment. I have seen the opposite though. Not always, but it has happened that a team first was confident they could take on a certain amount of work, but at the point of having to commit, thought it safer to leave out something and only then dared commit. 

Although I haven’t really experienced any averse effects myself (or have not been aware of any, at least), I believe John is right, and it’s better to eschew the use of the term. The fact that some Project Managers exist who can be good Scrum Master and Project Manager rolled into one, doesn’t mean combining this role is a good idea in general. In most situations, having clear roles with clear responsibilities gives less opportunity for mismanagement and ugly performed Scrum, and a bigger chance of well running Agile practices and self-organising, high performing teams. 

So when starting with a new team, or whenever you feel like it’s possible to change from ‘commitment’ to ‘forecast’, try it out. How does your Sprint planning and the resulting delivered increment go when leaving out the explicit ‘commitment’ part?

Hat tip to Neil Killick for tweeting this!

Previously published on

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