Hello dear followers and readers,
Sorry for keeping silence last month. I joined the new company based in Berlin and had a lot of things to do there in my first days. One of them was designing, preparing and facilitating the Company Values workshop. Today I would like to talk about the significance of having them and cover why it is important to collaborate on their creation. I will also share the workshop design I came up with, briefly share its results and my retrospection on it.
Enjoy your reading!
Importance of Company Values
I guess everyone working in an agile environment knows that “culture eats processes for breakfast”. I have seen it myself many times in different versions.
You can think of a motivated and passionate development team trying to be agile right in the middle of command & control-driven company. Or pro-active open-minded people being part of an absolutely passive and disengaged team. In both cases, it rarely ends well. The best case scenario is “yet another” Zombie Scrum or Scrummerfall demotivating all participants and failing to deliver the result expected by the business.
Scrum has three basic pillars: Transparency, Inspection & Adaptation. Company culture also has three pillars which I consider to be fundamental. They are Company Mission, Vision & Values *. Mission and Vision are supposed to set a North Star and drive the company towards it. But it is also important to have a set of Company or Core Values to enrich them and enable their achievement.
* Please do not confuse it with your Product’s Mission and Vision. There are many companies nowadays that have more than one product being developed or maintained and it is really important to have mission and vision defined for each of them. Company’s Mission and Vision can play a significant role in the decision-making process on the new product’s launch or old product’s cancellation. You can learn more about this here.
Designing the workshop
As I joined the company it already had Mission & Vision in place which was a good start. Now we needed to accompany them with a clear set of Values which would allow us to achieve the company’s goals while being shared by people. That is why we decided to involve everyone in the process of their creation.
For me, this meant that I needed to design the workshop for approximately 30–35 people. Right now the company is relatively small but working with such a group is still challenging even for an experienced facilitator. I do not consider myself being one of them yet.
I decided to use the classic meeting structure and separate it into five stages:
- Setting up the stage or Intro
- Gathering information
- Generating insights
- Deciding what to do
Sounds familiar, isn’t it? This structure is similar to the one given by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen in their famous book on Agile Retrospectives.
So, my next step was to choose a proper format for each of them.
Our Intro consisted of two parts. First, I and our CEO have prepared an introductory word on the importance of Company Values and why do we want them to be created in a collaborative way. We also brought up few slides on our Mission and Vision, current eNPS score and examples of values from such leading companies as Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Google.
Second part of the Intro was supposed to involve people and help them tune up for the following creative process. That’s why I decided to use a Liberating Structure called Impromptu Networking. I have used and also experienced this Liberating Structure before and knew that it helps to refine ideas and sharpen them going through several iterations with different partners. During our workshop participants had to answer the following questions:
- What do Company Values mean for you?
- What differs good and bad Company Values?
To make things more interesting and avoid having like-minded people pairing with each other, I decided to set a rule that each pair should consist of one Tech person (developer, designer, QA engineer) and someone representing a Non-tech part of the company. (e.g. Sales, Customer Support, People Team, etc.)
To ease the process of pairing I just used different colours of post-its for Tech and Non-Tech people.
As an outcome of this exercise, I expected the group to come up with defined criteria for good and bad Company Values and get their mind prepared for the next stage. It really worked that way and everyone looked energised. Having some input provided in the beginning also allowed people to get tuned on the topic and start coming up with ideas during the following discussion.
Gathering Data & Generating Insights
For the next part of the workshop (Gathering Data), I chose another Liberating Structure. It was a slightly modified 1–2–4-all. In our case it was supposed to turn into 1–2–4–8-all but as it always happens things went a little bit sideways.
Everyone was supposed to start with silent work writing down Values they would like to propose. After that, going through a number of discussions in small groups, they were supposed to refine their proposals by getting rid of or merging some of them. That should allow us to brainstorm proposals and to Generate Insights for the upcoming decision-making.
In my opinion, it was important to set boundaries for the creativity to keep the timing and attitude under control, so I decided to provide each participant with only four post-its. It’s easy: if you have more than four to propose — you have to choose the most important ones.
As a result of this stage, I expected us to gather all results we on the whiteboard. Each group of 8 people was supposed to present their proposals to give clarity on the context and provide one or two real-life examples of its application. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a hundred per cent participation, so I had to come up with Plan B and have two groups of 12 and 8 instead of three groups of 8. Both groups did their best to refine proposed Values and make them clear. They came up with 8 proposals each but 6 of them were similar, so we had 10 proposed Values in the end.
Deciding what to do
In our case it turned into Deciding which Values to choose. To allow us to choose the most supported ones I applied Dot Voting. Everyone received a set of four green dots and one red dot. The last one was supposed to give people a chance to vote against the option they don’t like.
That is the only part of the workshop I am not happy with. Unfortunately, based on the feedback I received later, I did not provide enough time for the group to discuss all proposals once again and some of them got misinterpreted. We did have another 15–20 minutes to have that discussion since we have saved some time in the beginning. Being in the process I did not consider that option and no one has paid my attention to it. That once again highlights the importance of not only having a plan but following it too where we can benefit from it.
To wrap up the meeting we had several things to do. First of all, to announce the kick-off of Culture CoP (Community of Practice) which would take care of maintaining and fostering the company’s culture in the future.
Company Values are an important part of the culture and creating them in a single workshop isn’t the best idea. We decided to create an RFC (Request for Comments) document based on the workshop results and “add some meat on the bones” there. It is supposed to generate the input for the first Culture CoP gathering. That should also allow us to mitigate negativity about the last part of the workshop.
To gather impressions about the workshop I set up a Feedback wall. Most people liked it and enjoyed having a proper time boxing, good introduction, high level of energy and clear & result-oriented set up. I also received about 7 or 8 post-its highlighting the problem of not having enough time for discussion in the final stage. In general I found that a useful experience and hope you will take away something from it for yourself too.
You can find the overall meeting structure below:
Thanks for reading, I really hope you enjoyed it! If yes, feel free to clap or leave your response below. I am looking forward to reading your thoughts and ideas on the topic.
P.S. Besides starting at the new place in November, I have also attended the ICP-ATF (Agile Team Facilitation) course in Kyiv, Ukraine organised and held by AgileLAB. That was a very useful and insightful experience for me. I am sure it will help me a lot in my further development as a Scrum Master/Agile Coach. In fact, I have already applied some of the skills I learnt there to prepare this workshop. Please let me know if you would like to hear more about ICP-ATF and my feedback on it in the responses below. Thank you!