Team Values Statement

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As an agile coach, one of the first things I do when launching new teams is help them to create a Team Values Statement.

Traditional working agreements are a declarative agreement by a team regarding how they will work together to bring cohesion and enable collaboration.  They set the ground rules, so to speak, so that everyone knows what field they are playing on.  Working agreements create a safe place for teams to determine the atmosphere in which they want to work.  They also provide a way for the team to address behaviors that negatively impact that atmosphere in a non-confrontational way.  The agreement gets to be the bad guy.  If behavior doesn’t line up with the agreement, the team can either choose to change the working agreement or modify behavior to conform to the agreed standard.  Either way – the team owns the agreement.

Team Values Statements have a different purpose.  Instead of being an atmospheric  thermometer for behaviors, the Team Values Statement sets the foundational mindset from which the team will make decisions and base its actions.  The values statement is derived from the collective values of the team who discusses what they personally value in a team.  Once the team discusses and understands what their team members value, they determine which values seem to resonate across the team consistently.  They decide which  values are most important and adopt those values in the form of written values statements.  Knowing the collective values of the team helps individual team members make like decision from a common mindset.

For example if a team values producing a quality product that causes them to feel pride and accomplishment when it is delivered to customers, it will impact the choices they make when there are hard decisions to be made about sacrificing quality or missing a deadline.

Outside of traditional agile teams I have used working agreements with management teams to help build cohesion and to develop a united mindset when managing their company.  Values Statements can be useful to any type of team whether they are managers, ministers, software developers, band members, teachers, or family members – a common mindset helps create a safe and collaborative environment where people can unite to succeed.

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Agile Manifesto — What it means to me

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The Agile Manifesto talks about uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.  It goes on to state that through this work and helping others, four consist values have developed.  To me, these values go far beyond software development and set a platform for making decisions and forming thought processes.  For me, these values form the mindset of agility which spills over into every area of life.  Because my mindset is one of agility, I can’t help but take agile out into the world beyond software development.  Everyday, I work with people and see agile changing mindsets and impacting lives for the better.

We value:  Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

This value represents that understanding that an agile life is filled with humans!  Humans are interesting, complex, intelligent, diverse, ever changing, and FUN!  Processes are important and so are the tools that we use to get work done.  But, when processes and tools become more valuable to us than the people who use those processes and tools they have over-stepped their boundary.  Processes and tools are created by people to solve problems, work more efficiently and to bring consistency.  They should not be jails of solitary confinement where we get locked in and become slaves to the thing we created to help us!  We cannot replace people with process and tools.  When individuals interact with one another, creative ideas form, problems are solved, momentum can is gained, new perspectives are shared, and growth occurs.  People learn from interacting with each other.  We become more aware of the world around us and more aware of ourselves when we interact with individuals of various types.  When we take people out of the equation and rely on the processes and tools, our work suffers.  Processes and tools are meant to assist people and should be used in this manner.  They should never become a replacement for interacting with people — Text messaging is a prime example … Texting is a tool that can be used for quick communication when direct conversations are impossible but if we allow this to take away our ability to speak to and directly interact with individuals we become a slave to the tool and it has more (negative) power than originally intended.

We Value:  Working software over comprehensive documentation

To me, this value says:  Let’s don’t just talk about it.  Let’s do something about it!  Let’s build it!  I can spend a lot of time writing a document that tells you every detail of what I can do and what I want, or I can write just enough to make sure you get an understanding of the direction we are heading and provide you with something you can touch and feel to see if it makes you happy.  I don’t want to waste your time or money and I don’t want to waste mine either so lets build this thing together.

We Value:  Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

I’ve got two choices when serving customers.  I can make them outline every detail of everything they will ever want from me and hold them to it rigidly – charging them for every slight shift.  OR, we can agree to create something great together and set some boundaries in a contract that protects us both and start collaborating to ensure that we get to the finish line together!

We Value:  Responding to change over following a plan

 Plans are good.  They are needed.  They are necessary.  But, change is reality.  Why do we pretend that we don’t know that change will occur?  People change.  Circumstances change.  Budgets change.  Markets change.  The world around us changes every single day.  Instead of being ruled by a rigid plan that we know becomes obsolete and unrealistic just moments after it is created, lets plan to change.  Plan in shorter periods of time that we are more likely to be able to predict for success instead of multiple months or even years down the road.  Get feedback and don’t be mad when the customer realizes that they didn’t know what they wanted until they saw what you provided.  Be flattered that what you showed them generated enough interest and excitement that they could see it become something great that met their needs and provided great value.  Isn’t that the end goal?  If executing upon and controlling a plan is the primary goal, producing a valuable product that satisfies the customer must take a back seat to this objective.  But, if customer satisfaction is the target – our plans must be flexible …. agile even!

The Agile Manifesto Original Signers:

 Kent Beck Mike Beedle Arie van Bennekum Alistair Cockburn Ward Cunningham Martin Fowler James Grenning Jim Highsmith Andrew Hunt Ron Jeffries Jon Kern Brian Marick Robert C. Martin Steve Mellor Ken Schwaber Jeff Sutherland Dave Thomas