2 min read

TPP #001: Adopting Team Values

Hey there! 

This week I want to talk about team values: 

  • Working without them 
  • The benefits your realize with them 
  • And how to find and adopt values that fit your team 

The average software team lacks explicit team values

Every team has things they value when it comes to their work. 

It’s just that they’re not always obvious. Or even agreed upon by everyone on the team. In fact, most of the time there are conflicting sets of competing values. 

Which means teams struggle with: 

  • Misalignment 
  • Internal conflict 
  • Lengthy decision making 

And that’s a best-case scenario. 

Team members discuss their values.

But great teams adopt and (transparently) apply their values

Because when you adopt team values, you unlock benefits like: 

  • Fewer conflicts 
  • Clear expectations 
  • Improved team alignment 
  • Enabling humane interactions 
  • Clarity around how the work is done 

And all it takes is the team agreeing on how they work. 

Keep these in mind when choosing team values

When you’re choosing team values, don’t: 

  • Dictate values to the team 
  • Try to account for everything 
  • Just adopt existing corporate values 

This reduces the likelihood that the team implements any of the values. 

Instead, focus on: 

  • Starting small 
  • Seeking alignment 
  • Letting the team drive 

Which allows the team to take ownership in their new values. 

But if you get stuck, steal the XP values

There’s no shame in adopting well known and reliable values. 

In eXtreme Programming Explained, Kent Beck describes the XP values of: 

  • Respect 
  • Courage 
  • Feedback 
  • Simplicity 
  • Communication 

So, if you’re having trouble finding values that work for your team, pick one of these and start there. 

How to implement your new values

It’s one thing to talk about what we value. 

But it’s another to live those values each day while we work. That means you need to take deliberate steps to ensure that your team adopts them. Otherwise you’ll never realize their benefits. 

There are three keys to adopting team values: 

  1. Write them down and make them visible 
  2. Provide examples of how to “live” the values 
  3. Periodically review the values as a team 

Here’s an example of implementing the value Courage: 

  • Written down: “We value taking action with Courage” 
  • Example: “When something goes wrong, we Courageously share the bad news with appropriate stakeholders.” 
  • Review: “Every month, we’ll review times when we acted (and did not act) with Courage.” 
Team get alignment on their values

Team get alignment on their values

Don’t forget to inspect and adapt over time

Like all great teams, you’ll want to apply the idea of “inspect and adapt” to your values. 

Teams change over time as members come and go. The organization surrounding the team will change too. And as with all change, we must adapt. 

These exercises are great ways to review team values: 

  • Team Radar 
  • Driving & Restricting Forces 
  • Values-themed retrospectives 

And one more thing

Ultimately, adopting team values is about increasing humanity. 

Your team spends too much time together to disagree about how the work is done. By explicitly stating (and living) your values, you’re eliminating the stress of misalignment. And we could all use a little more peace. 

See you next time!