A key foundation of successful teams is ensuring that the group has a shared mission, purpose, and values. The team values should take the individual values and the organizational values into account. Every individual, every organization and every team is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose. That purpose is the satisfaction of our individual or collective needs.
When we use our values to make decisions, we make a deliberate choice to focus on what is important to us. When values are shared, they build internal cohesion in a group.
Drafting value statements in a silo with a top-down mandate to comply is rarely effective. A person can’t just be told what to find meaningful. A values system is something that you develop over the course of years, and it is not easy to change overnight. In our team’s case, we included everyone on our small team in the process so that we could tap into values that people already held and uncover core values that we, as a team, were already living. Values unveiled with everyone participating are more likely to be unique to your team.
How did we form our team values?
Our team had a lot of implicit values. How do we communicate what our values are when a new member joins our team or hold ourselves accountable? This is when our team decided that we need to make our Engineering values more explicit.
Every individual spent time reflecting on the values they believed in. We asked all team members to start thinking about questions like: What do you value? What unspoken values have contributed to our success to date?
Once we got all the ideas listed down in one place, we started organizing and grouping all the potential values. Each team member then voted for three values they strongly connected with. At this point, senior management left the discussion to ensure the process was not unduly influenced. We ranked the values with the highest votes and discussed as a group on which ones we wanted to shortlist as our team values. After a lengthy discussion, we ultimately agreed on four core values.
The best teams are built on trust. We trust that each engineer is innately motivated to do what is best for the team. Relationships over hierarchy. Hierarchy is necessary to stay organized, but each engineer’s relationship with others is primarily built on trust.
Our processes guide, but don’t control us. We have strong processes in place but we shy away from hard enforcement of rules. Instead, each individual is trusted to follow the processes, since they are there to help engineers do their jobs, not inhibit them.
Trust leads to Partnership which, in turn, leads to Innovation which, in turn, leads to Performance. Trust is the base for a Performant team.
WE TRUST our colleagues BY respecting their decisions and opinions TO collaborate effectively, do the right thing and maintain good working relationships.
- OPEN COMMUNICATION
Open communication is about being transparent about the motivation behind why you want to do something. It means having an honest dialogue about how a decision will benefit you, the team, your end customers, and discussing the various ways to achieve it.
We speak up when we don’t agree and expect others to speak up when they disagree with us. When we disagree, we always offer a counterproposal.
WE COMMUNICATE OPENLY BY sharing our thoughts (pros & cons), being outspoken, having important decisions written down for the entire team, staying in touch with the rest of Voxy outside Engineering (email or in-person) TO ensure that the team is on the same page and build & increase trust both within the engineering team and within Voxy.
We find an effective way to solve a problem within reasonable constraints. We know the limitations of a solution.
We ask ourselves: “Does the platform provide the answer?”. We don’t reinvent the wheel — instead, we prefer to use well-maintained libraries rather than creating them in-house.
WE are pragmatic BY considering the impact of our choices TO find an effective way to solve a problem.
- ENGINEERS HELP DESIGN THE PRODUCT
Technology can enable design that hasn’t yet been imagined. Design may require technology that hasn’t yet been invented. We will actively direct the product to design elegant features at the early stages of the design process as well as continue to improve the design when we work on them.
WE, Engineers, help design the product BY participating early on in the product design process, thinking critically about the product features, being mindful about the product design when working on the story TO produce the best design, help other teams understand our perspective and vice versa, eliminate unexpected consequences of features, lead the product in a direction on how we can use technology to design the feature elegantly, overall to provide a good user experience.