Setting Engineering Org Values.




  • Stated values possess no magic for cultural transformation, but with a bit of care they can be useful for consolidating cultural change that you’ve already made. (View Highlight)
  • Stated values make it clear how you want people to make decisions. If senior team members live and role model the values, then those values will become an active, living artifact. If stated values don’t align, then they’ll become a frequently forgotten, running joke. (View Highlight)
  • Documented values increase cohesion across the new and existing team. They also avoid the scenario where new hires unknowingly practice their previous companies’ values, causing a cultural rift between new and existing teams (View Highlight)
  • welcome ideas from across the team rather than only accepting top-down ideas, and you want to formalize that change so it persists over time (View Highlight)
  • a few vocal engineers are advocating for teams setting their own patterns independently of the organization’s existing ones. Formalizing the reuse of existing approaches when possible will prevent a prolonged conflict (View Highlight)
  • You’ve acquired a very small company of five engineers to join your existing organization of five hundred engineers. You’ve been clear in the acquisition process that you’re looking for the new team to merge into the existing organization, and your documented values help them navigate that change successfully (View Highlight)
  • Adding an organization-appropriate interpretation to an existing value reinforces that company value, rather than detracting from it, and is an easy sell to the wider executive team. (View Highlight)
  • It’s much more work to maintain values than to create them, and adding to the company values will allow you to share the maintenance across the executive team. If it’s not widely applicable, then you have the choice between adding either engineering organizational values or engineering leadership values. (View Highlight)
  • people often have a strong internalized belief that a company should have one shared culture, you may find that introducing organization-specific values often run into a surprising amount of friction. (View Highlight)
  • In practice, almost everyone aspires to be a leader, and will model their behavior on leaders within the team, so leadership values tend to establish themselves as organizational values while side-stepping some of the tripwires that come being explicit. (View Highlight)
  • A useful value is reversible, applicable, and honest (View Highlight)
  • Effective values guide behavior, and it’s only practical to guide behavior when there are multiple, viable approaches. (View Highlight)
  • Many values are written down and forgotten. To keep a value alive and useful, it needs to be used frequently and visibly by the team. Applicability means a value that contributes to planning sessions, performance reviews, and hiring decisions. (View Highlight)
  • Seek feedback clarifies the expectation that you should be actively seeking feedback on your work rather than working in isolation. (View Highlight)
  • A touch of aspiration is OK, but useful values should explain how effective employees navigate the organization as it exists today (View Highlight)
  • The only way for your entire team to operate on the same values is to describe behavior honestly. (If you want to change company behavior, change the behavior first, and document it second.) (View Highlight)
  • While you should try to avoid useless values, as long as they’re honest, they tend to be inert rather than harmful, so I wouldn’t spend too much time fighting against, particularly them if you’re working on values as a participant (e.g. for the company) rather than as the final decider (e.g. for engineering). (View Highlight)
  • The best way to think of the relationship between values and a strategy (business, technology, or otherwise) is that useful values generally can serve as a strategy’s guiding principle. Not all guiding principles are values (e.g. how you respond to a current market opportunity is unlikely to be a value), but most values are viable guiding principles. (View Highlight)
  • Establishing values should follow the general patterns of good process rollout: identify the opportunity, document potential options, involve stakeholders early to build buy-in, test before finalizing to avoid folks feeling trapped, and iterate until it’s useful. It’s easy to announce values, but much harder to introduce values that get used. Reduce that risk by including the wider team, listening, and iterating a few times to make them feel like a shared creation rather than a top-down one. (View Highlight)
  • Approach conflict with curiosity. One of my foundational beliefs is that most professional conflict between reasonable people is driven by asymmetric information. If you approach conflict with curiosity, you can quickly learn the missing information and generally make the right decision without conflict. (View Highlight)