“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:”
– Agile Manifesto
It’s a list of values. Don’t forget it.
Forget “capital A – Agile”, if anything in the tech world deserves a capital letter it’s that. Capital V. Values.
The manifesto inspired a wave of new thinking, largely because it stated what its authors believed, in a brave insistence that those things would guide the way they went about their jobs. This opened the door to a more fulfilling working life for all those of people who later read and felt a connection to it.
Values lead to Ideas
Adopting agile values like the ones in the manifesto reminds us, permits us to explore new ideas constantly. Traditional software development and project approaches don’t gel, so we have to find ways. As a community, we’ve taken to things like the Toyota production system, sports coaching philosophies, family counselling, anything! Looking for ideas that will help teams and organisations be more effective and more human.
Ideas lead to Practices
So we read, tour and talk. We try things and we write them down. We measure and we reflect. Some things stick and some don’t. Eventually we have a set of practices we call our own. The agile community, the organisation, the team. You might have adopted a prescribed system or use selected practices of different origins. You may have invented your own. Whatever. Your practices/behaviours spring from your ideas, your ideas spring from your values.
Values > Ideas > Practices
Like it or not that’s how it works. An idea is a product of the person it emerges from and we all have values.
Many organisations develop a set of values for themselves. The hope of course, is that the people within the organisation subscribe to those ideals, inspired to behave in accordance. If I contend that ideas and practices spring from a group’s values, then it must be pretty important to sort those out.
Most of the time, there are two things wrong with organisational values
1. They don’t inspire
2. Nobody knows WTF they are
Here are the published values for the Melbourne City Council.
Integrity: We take responsibility for our actions in an honest and transparent way
Courage: We dare to create new and better ways of doing business
Accountability: We take responsibility for decisions and actions to achieve agreed outcomes
Respect: We consider and understand the perspective and contribution of others
Excellence: We continuously improve our performance to achieve outstanding outcomes for Melbourne.
I’m sure they’re well-intentioned, but I’d be willing to bet that very few Melbourne council employees are able to recite or even remember them. Whilst these values represent a very admirable way of being, they hardly force one to take pause in contemplation of their power.
If you’re lucky, you might happen into an organisation that takes its values seriously enough to give them some personality. Try these on for size, from Envato:
When the Community Succeeds, We Succeed
The Right People, The Right Environment
Tell It Like It Is
Focus On Results
Not Just The Bottom Line
I work for Envato. These values each have a purpose, detailed at more length when anyone joins the company. They are deliberate, revered an often referenced. They really do shape the ideas and practices we use.
Laugh. Toil. Achieve.
OK, Mirror time.
Have you ever stopped to note your own professional values? Your personal system for making decisions, determining right from wrong, your way of seeking happiness in your work?
Here are mine, boiled down into a statement that I look at regularly.
If I’m not making real connections with those I come into contact with, I feel it’s all a bit of a waste of time. The things that bug me in the wee hours are invariably linked to the relationships I’ve failed to strengthen or sometimes damaged in the course of my day. I know that if I’m laughing with my colleagues, we’re doing it right.
Without exemption, when I look back over my life at the things I’m most proud of, they’re things that involved a lot of hard yakka. Hours and concentration, creativity and bravery. I’ve enjoyed some occasions when success came easily, but I cherish those successes that demanded more of me. In my experience, guys that follow the “work smarter, not harder” mantra usually get pipped by guys that do both.
We have to be headed somewhere. I’ll seek a goal that inspires me, shakes me out of bed. If I can’t see it now, I’ll find it. I don’t have to leave that to somebody else. When we reach that destination, I know I’ll be able to look around at those that shared the ride, knowing that we share a bond. If we never get there, well…..same result. That’s where the gold is for me. The journey shared.
Laugh. Toil. Achieve. They’re in that order on purpose.
My values give me ideas. Those ideas force me to evaluate my approach to coaching and management every day. They see me develop a way of being and a way of doing (my practices). I have no say in the matter.