Establishing your team values

At the recent Progressive.Net exchange, Dave Laribee (blog/twitter) gave a great session on the role of architect in the age of lean software development. The talk focused on people, product and process and was filled with nuggets related to each. Establishing your team’s values was one of the exercises we performed around the people topic.

I must admit I initially thought it would be a pointless task but it proved grounding and provided perspective and focus. I took it back to my team and during the last retrospective we spent thirty minutes going through the following process.

Step 1: Shout out some values.

With someone writing them on a whiteboard, the whole team should shout out values that are important to them. All members of the team should be present, testers, developers, project manager, business analysts and the business themselves.

Values can be hard to think of at first, but once the ball gets rolling they’ll flow. Think about what’s important to you from your perspective e.g. your codebase, your team, how your team is perceived by others, what you deliver, your process, etc. They should be words that describe things that are taken for granted but not always remembered, things that should be engrained in the way you work rather than things you aim to achieve. Examples for us included quality, honesty, fun, energised work, communication etc.

With everyone together you’ll get an understanding of what’s important to other members of your team and end up with about 15/20 values.

Step 2: Vote for 3 killer values

Each member of the team should now vote for three of the most important values with a dot next to each one on the whiteboard. The number of votes each person gets depends on the size of your team, but 3 votes each should whittle the list down to a few popular ones. Through voting you’ll also find that some values overlap, or one value encompasses two or three others; don’t worry if this happens, just go with the one that you feel is most important.

Step 3: Explain the values with the most votes

There should now be three to five values on the board with the most votes. If not and the votes are spread, go through this step anyway as it’ll help surface any assumptions people made and you can re-vote.

The person that suggested each of the three most popular values should now just rattle off a sentence explaining why they felt that value was important. Other team members should also add their own comment; the more perspectives the better. For example, a tester will value quality with regards to the product in general being bug-free and what the business required. A developer will value a quality code base written with SOLID principles in mind and a business owner will value quality as it will give their product a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Step 4: Feel a bit more focused

Having picked three values everyone agrees on you should get these up above your story board for all to see. They’ll be there to remind you about a way of working that you all agreed on; if anyone breaches one you can say “Ah, come on, man!”.

Like I mentioned before, at first I thought this was a pretty pointless excercise. But, whether your team’s in the forming to performing stage it’s definitely worth the 30 minutes. You’ll feel everyone’s on the same playing field, more enthused and has a little better focus.


2 Responses to “Establishing your team values”

  1. 1 Zubair 17 May, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Nice post Hemal, as I was in the above mentioned retrospective I can only add it was indeed a great session starter. Although the values you come up with may seem fairly generic I found it useful to hear the different team members perspectives on each one and made it a lot easier to focus our decisions going forward.

  2. 2 Vivek 18 May, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Quite Informative.Values of all the members are the core for any decision making in the team.

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