Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
As new teams spring up and old teams redefine themselves, one of the most important aspects of an effective team is the culture.
An organization’s culture is defined by the values. It’s not what they say, it’s what they do. It’s not what they want to reward or say they want to reward, it’s what they actually reward. The other thing to know about a culture is that the values flow down from the top. That’s why leadership is important, as well as shared values among the team. Conflict of styles is easier to deal with than a conflict of values … after all, you don’t just change what you value to fit your company.
One of the simplest ways to establish and guide an organizational culture is to explicitly share the values and principles. If you’re in the position of creating a new team, you can use the values as a lightening rod to attract the people with passion that care deeply about similar values. Values are sticky and that’s actually how you can spread an organization far and wide and yet remain intact … it simply becomes a federated team that connects at the values (you can read more about this concept in the book, The Starfish and the Spider.)
Example of Defining a Culture Through Organizational Principles and Values Here is a simple example of defining a culture using the patterns & practices team as an example circa 2006:
Mission “Customer success on the Microsoft platform” or “Proven practices for the platform.”
Goals In patterns & practices, the goals are simple:
Values In patterns & practices, we value:
Principles We use the following principles to guide our work:
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Can you please describe the process that you went through to arrive at these shared Organizational Principles and Values?
Tactically, we did a did a two-day off-site with our team leads and a facilitator. From there, our group leader distilled all the input into the explicit mission, goals, values, and principles.
Getting offsite was important. So was having a facilitator to guide conversations, get folks to talk, and parking lot issues.
It will be interesting to see if you keep it going. E.g. each year, measure (by survey typically) where you think you are compared to your stated ideal culture. And then, at larger intervals, maybe renew your stated ideal culture.