How to Improve Team Engagement With Shared Values

Category : Scrum, Team Dynamics ยท by

Shared Goals and Shared Values – Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Two common themes that usually stand out when looking at high performing companies are shared goals and shared values.

All Teams should have a shared goal. Shared goals provide direction. The way forward. It means the team is aligned with a common vision directed at achieving specific results or outcomes. Without shared goals a team is rudderless. How do they know what’s in and what’s out? At a management level shared goals allow you to monitor the state of the team and circumvent any problems or issues when they arise because everyone knows what they are doing. Or do they? What happens when goals aren’t enough?

“Values tell you what to do when you don’t know what to do” – Tom McCoy, former EVP at Advanced Micro Devices

Sometimes you need more than a goal to help you. Shared Values promote good team citizenship and give guidance when making decisions. With the team singing from the same song sheet of values then any decisions they make will be in concert with each other and team members will be more engaged. When considering new team members, shared values define the team culture so it’s easier to determine if potential candidates will be a good fit for the team.

So what should your teams shared values be and how do you find them?

Discovering Your Team’s Shared Values

Shared values will obviously be different for each type of team and below I have identified some I think would be relevant for a software development team. I pulled these from a large list (see examples) and I think it’s worth having a pool for the team to discuss.

Collaborative Integrity Client Value Innovative Transformational
Respectful Ownership Empathic Ethical Relationship Building
Openness Speed Courageous Democratic Information Sharing
Simplistic Fun Lead By Example Humbleness Responsible
Enthusiastic Passionate Evolutionary Diverse Perseverance
Urgency Egalitarian Autonomy Kinship Reliable
Optimal Welcoming Transparent Accountable Results Driven
Quality Rigorous Determined Reciprocal Improvement
Excellence Creative Open Minded Moral Honest
Resourceful Productive Focused Social

** Some of these mean the same thing but one word can mean different things to different people. Your mileage may vary.


Team Exercise

A useful team exercise is the following:

  1. The Management team identifies a set of values (20 to 30).
  2. Hold a team workshop where the team goes through the list from the previous step.
  3. Gain consensus from the team on the values they want to share (6 to 8 values). It’s important that this is done by the team. If your team is large you might want to facilitate smaller groups that identify 2 to 3 values then get the whole team to pull these together for the wider team to get 6 to 8 values.
  4. Publish the team values for everyone in the team and organisation to see.
  5. Remind the team members to hold each other accountable to their shared values. This could be done at a daily stand-up or retrospective.

Rinse and Repeat

Gaining consensus on this may take some time and you might need several iterations of the above exercise before the team is ready to publish it’s shared values. Ultimately, if you can can promote team member engagement then the results are sure to follow.