Values matter… a lot

When I’m working with teams and organizations I always emphasize the importance of values that contribute to minimizing time to market and the ability to quickly respond to changing needs. In this post I will explain why I think understanding and applying these working values are critical for business success in general.

What are values

Oxford Dictionaries says the following:

principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
“they internalize their parents’ rules and values”
synonyms: principles, moral principles, ethics, moral code, morals, moral values, standards, moral standards, code of behaviour, rules of conduct, standards of behaviour
“society’s values are passed on to us as children”…

Why are values important

The day you were born, you had no clue about what is important in life other than putting things in your mouth and making noise if you had a need to fulfill. Your parents are the first contributors to help you discover what is right or wrong. In the beginning this is very similar to work instructions: share your toys with your sister, when it’s dark outside you should be in bed and sleeping, don’t throw your breakfast through the living room, and so on. As you grow up, you are ought to make more and more decisions yourself and become less dependent on your parents judgement. You need a moral compass to validate your considerations. Your moral compass is typically shaped by the social groups you are in and have been part of: your family, a group of friends, your class mates, your sports team, the department you work in, the organization you work for, your home town, the country you live in, the partner you marry.

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Image by Tyler Bolken CC BY 2.0

You can conform to an existing value, or instead, you reject an existing value and either try to change it or you leave the social group. This isn’t always a conscious process; it can change your perception of right or wrong without you realizing it.

The reality is that everyone develops and refines his or her own unique moral compass. In order to be successful as a team or organization, you need to have some sort of moral alignment for constructive behavior and daily decision making. If you don’t, top-down parenting (a.k.a. micro managing) will prevail and self-organization will diminish. This generally has a negative impact on the speed of daily decision making, the quality of the decisions, and the happiness of employees.

Values I teach

Luckily we can profit from research, experts and successful companies. Unfortunately just stating values or hanging them on the wall is not enough. We need to understand why they matter before anyone is willing to reconsider their current believes and values. Sometimes we need to proof it with a small success story. That’s why I will dedicate a couple of future blog posts to one value in particular and explore why that value matters so much in a dynamic and competitive environment. Below you will find a teaser; an overview of the values I believe in and teach as a Business Agility Coach:

Lean Thinking / The Toyota Way: 2 pillars

  • Continuous improvement
  • Respect for people

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this

work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Scrum Values

  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect
  • Courage

 

Conclusion

Unless you like to be treated like a baby (or like to treat others like babies), grow up and discover your team and organization values. Understand their importance, commit to them and hold each other accountable for applying them. Evaluate, change and improve them. It will stimulate self-organization and will help you to reach your goals faster.

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