Establishing the FT Product Design and Research Team Values

The product research and design team at FT has grown rapidly within the last year with a number of new designers and researchers joining the team.This meant we needed to learn each other’s working styles to find the best way to bring the team together. By doing this we could avoid developing a siloed culture which can often lead to an ineffective and unhappy team. Many teams find theirselves with this challenge at some point but we also had the joy of discovering this remotely!

Myself, Ajai Freeman-Lampard and Xuan Zhang decided we would find and use values to solve this problem. We believed that focusing on the self discovery of individual values first would subsequently allow us to establish our team values. Team values would define our core important principles, beliefs, behaviours and how we interact with each other.

So, what are values and why focus on individual values?

Individual values are the things we believe are important in the way we live and work.They can define our priorities and act as the intrinsic measures used to evaluate life against personal goals and social interactions.

Values are very important to our lives. When your actions and behaviours match your values, you are more likely to feel satisfied and content with your life. Conversely, when they are mis-aligned is usually when things can feel wrong and be a source of unhappiness. Our team is full of different individuals and thus their values will vary, we believed that a focus on identifying these individual values first would ensure ownership and inclusivity.

The process

We went about discovering these values through two workshops with the entire team. The first was to explore our individual values and the second to bring those values together to create unified team values. First, we needed to establish a shared understanding of how we define values. We each went away and conducted some secondary web based research, specifically looking at the definition of values and how they are applied in different contexts. Once completed we regrouped to discuss what we found and agree on our understanding.

Next, we looked at different sources such as public blog posts to explore different exercises that other companies had used to help bring their own teams together. By doing this we were able to gain a good understanding of the different directions we could take. We could now tweak and remodel these exercises in a way that would suit our team’s needs. We considered what the optimal duration of each exercise should be and who would act as the main facilitator for the workshops. We sought feedback from our principal product designer and a user researcher which contributed to our agreed structure for the first workshop.

The structure of the second workshop was dependent on the outcomes of the first. We were unsure how the team’s receptiveness, type of answers given and the possibility that the team wouldn’t have any shared values would affect our plan.

A series of images of tasks with time stamps above each.
Screenshot of our brainstorm board in Figjam

Team values workshop: Self discovery

We introduced the workshop by explaining what individual values are and allowing room for questions to help set expectations. Next up were reflection questions.

“What qualities do you look for in a partner or friend”

Getting individuals in the right state of mind was important. We needed everyone to feel comfortable and in a safe place to ensure authenticity. By reflecting on your own personal relationships you can identify themes, patterns and qualities which act as an indication of what you truly value.

Up next was a values sorting exercise where everybody was to provide their top 10 values. A list of different values to refer to for guidance was provided as well as validating questions which would help to frame values.

A list of instructions on a yellow background with a table of value names at the bottom
Workshop 1, Activity 2

In order to truly discover which values were non negotiable we asked each member to filter these 10 values down to their top 5. This allowed identification of the values that resonated with themselves the most.

A yellow box with activity instructions.
Workshop 1 Activity 3

Now we had established individual values we moved to the last exercise of the workshop, group sorting. As a team we worked to group everybody’s values by agreeing on labels for the groups. This was challenging to manage, how the values were interpreted changed from person to person which created overlaps. To overcome this we worked on the outliers last and gave lots of room for people to have a discussion on how the value resonated with them and their group choice.

A yellow box with a list of activity instructions.
Workshop 1 Activity 4

These groups were then used in the second workshop.

Team values workshop: Connecting individual values to the team

A week later we ran a second workshop. This started with a recap of our previous workshop outputs and a warm up activity as we needed the team to get into an open mindset before moving onto the main exercises. We used the established grouped values from the last workshop to vote as a team on the top 4.

A group of yellow post it notes with different values on each. They have varying amounts of thumbs up and +1 stamps surrounding them.
Workshop 2 Activity 1 output

Making sure the team truly embraced these values was important therefore we split into four groups with each group tackling one of the four values. The groups discussed the behaviours we wanted to adopt when thinking about the said value with three associated behaviour statements as outputs of the discussion.

A yellow box with a list of instructions within.
Workshop 2 Activity 2

Once completed we regrouped to discuss all the values statements together until a shared understanding of the reasoning behind them and alignment on all 12 statements was reached.

A yellow box with a list of instructions in. In the right hand corner there is a hand with a rainbow.
Workshop 2 Activity 3

You can download our workshop template in figma, here

Meet our team values and statements

Four cards with different values statements.
Our team values and statements

What we learned

Running a remote values workshop requires a lot of planning and collaboration. We found that big picture thinking, good introspection and self-awareness were key to our success. If you want to increase your chances of meaningful outputs and active participation then it’s worth taking time to understand what works best for your particular team, for example consider the different personalities and level of experience in your team and how you can plan with this in mind. Furthermore, how can you check they understand the usefulness of taking part in a team values workshop and how can you make that experience as enjoyable as possible.

Even with good planning we found that we needed to adapt based on our workshop outputs and plans for the future. We refined our original statements from the workshop in order to ensure they would be suitable in different contexts. This was important as we intend to share them widely and therefore needed them to be understood by everybody and not just our team.

What’s next?

We’ve started brainstorming ways to maintain visibility of these values for our team and consider the best way to share them with wider teams. We hope this establishes a good understanding of what’s important to us and encourages better working relationships. We will likely revisit these values in a few months to assess and challenge if they still apply especially when new joiners start, these values are malleable and we expect they will change with time. For now we have a strong set of values that have good potential to impact our ways of working in the product design and research team as well as cross-functionally.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to the team for getting involved with the workshop and working together to establish a strong set of team values which we hope will contribute to how we interact with each other!

Credits to Leonardo Mattei, Ajai Freeman-Lampard, Xuan Zhang and Maia Bridi.

References and Credits

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_85.htm

https://www.valuescentre.com/values-are-important/

https://hbr.org/2018/04/how-to-establish-values-on-a-small-team

https://www.fabric-academy.com/insights-tools/how-to-run-a-successful-values-workshop

Integrity by Adrien Coquet from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/integrity-3201900/

Hand On Heart by Anna Sophie from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/hand-on-heart-1893469/

Share by Aneeque Ahmed from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/share-1113272/

Legal by popcornarts from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/legal-3881297/

Talk by Guilherme Furtado from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/talk-2634983/

Idea by Numero Uno from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/idea-1320236/

Ask by Setyo Ari Wibowo from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/ask-1221810/

Binoculars by Luis Prado from NounProject.com

https://thenounproject.com/icon/binoculars-22637/

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A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology department.

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