Stand by your values!

Nov 06, 2013  ·  Mike Lowery

I recently ran a “get to know your team” session to help a team with lots of new members to better understand each other’s history, motivations, likes and dislikes.

We did a number of exercises including journey lines, what do you value and team flags and we wrapped it up with postcards (insert ref to ant’s post).

We found the “what do you value” exercise particularly effective and I thought I would share the process we used.

This exercise can help to identify differences that might cause friction within the team and find ways to work out any annoying wrinkles in your team dynamic.

What do you value?

1. create value cards

Write 2 - 3 items (1 per card) about things you value in your daily working life. If you want to speed things up then do 1 card per person.

When asking team members to come up with values, use examples like being on time for meetings or attention to detail etc.

Try to avoid things like honesty and trust as they are effectively closed questions. How likely is it that anyone will say that they don’t value trust, and even if they are the most dishonest person in the room they are not likely to tell you that!

In the end it’s the little things like “which end do you squeeze the toothpaste from” that over the weeks and months can eventually lead to tension in the team or even blow ups.

2. Stand by your value

  • Set up your playing field. Place the numbers one to five on the floor, make sure the numbers can be seen from a distance.

  • The numbers represent the fist of five method of team consensus (1 means you don’t agree, 3 means you are not sure but you will go with the team, 5 means you strongly agree).

  • The team member whose turn it is, selects their most important ‘value’ and places that first card next to the 5 - meaning that they think it’s a great idea. Now they explain what it is and why it’s important to them.
  • Using the fist of five method described above, each team member decides for themselves how much they agree with that value.
  • People stand close to or further away from the place card depending on their level of agreement - with the people further away being less supportive.

  • An additional dimension can also be added: if you agree with the value but don’t practice it then stand further away too.

3. Do we need to talk about this?

  • Within the group, set the “we need to talk” threshold. For example you could ignore any values where the majority of people are standing by 3 and above and only talk about those where opinion is spread.

  • Create a storage space to hold the results. As an example below, there are two columns “Things we agree on” and “We need to talk about these”.

  • Repeat steps two and three until everyone has used up their cards.

4. The lean coffee

  • The next step is to discuss the values you have identified as needing further discussion.

  • Any process for prioritisation can be used but I prefer the lean coffee approach.

  • Discuss all the cards, saving any not completed for your next team meeting

Categories: Agile Coaching, Retrospectives.

Tags: Agile, retrospectives, teams, values.