Have you written down your team values?

I’ve got a question about your team’s shared values, can you sparrow second?
“Does your team have a set of shared values? ”

After being asked this by a colleague, I thought the answer was definitely yes. But thinking more about the question, I began to question whether these are the team’s values or just my own. We never wrote them down nor stated them explicitly. It was surprising to me that we went so long as a team (multiple years) without clearly stating what we believed. At our next sprint retrospective meeting I planned to fix this.

We went around the room and each team member listed what they thought our team’s values are; these are the things we find most critical to how we function, build software and interact with each other. I stayed mostly silent during this discussion, letting my team build the list themselves. This was a very dynamic discussion drilling into the different areas of our work and distilling what our ethos is.

We generated a long list of practices, ideals, and values — some very specific and some more general. After a bit of discussion we distilled these into four core tenets.

1. We empathize with our customers

We take pride in responding to customer questions and issues quickly. We use every interaction as an opportunity to learn more about their workflow and use this to better build new features. We want every interaction to leave the customer knowing we care.

2. We prioritize collaboration to create high quality software

We foster an environment of psychological safety, ensuring every team member feels safe to ask any question or propose any idea without fear or embarrassment.

We employ techniques like pair programming to encourage deep collaboration on features and ensure we break silos, improve quality and build deeper interpersonal skills.

3. We are jointly accountable for everything the team does

We are all responsible for the quality of the product. Regardless of whether you worked on a feature or not, each team member will respond and act on feedback and bugs. We do not blame each other for issues but work together to find ways to improve. We all commit to actively reviewing each other’s pull requests and designs; ensuring a collective knowledge of all that we ship.

4. We take work/life balance seriously

We don’t question or pressure each other to work long hours. We expect to be able to succeed at our jobs working reasonable hours and using all of our vacation time. We accept that an occasional issue will occur which may require off hours work, but this should be exceedingly rare.

The importance of writing it down

By (finally) writing these values down, we built a rule book to use as a guide. It helps you look back on a week/sprint/year and rather than feel discouraged because you didn’t complete some specific task or fix a particular bug the way you wanted, you feel emboldened by consistently upholding these tenets and building your team and your product in a way you believe in.

This list also serves as an introduction to your team. For new team members, it’s a way of letting them know what we stand for on day one and how to best interact with the team. For potential recruits, it highlights the mentality of the team rather than just the product we build.

What are your team values? Have you written yours down? Please share!