Is There Any Value in Values?

Recently I was blessed with an opportunity to facilitate a project retrospective for globally distributed project at the end of their 9th Sprint. Project has development in Europe, China, and Mexico. It is an embedded system development project involving electronics, plastics, mechanics, and firmware development. For all the participants this is the first contact with Agile project management. As a starting exercise we had each participant try to describe the project so far with a single word. The words we got:

  • "Chido" (This is something like "cool")

  • "Good"

  • "Good"

  • "Skilled"

  • "Challenging"

  • "Spectacular"

  • "Fun"

  • "Speed"

  • "Improvement"

  • "Interesting"

  • "To Be Finished..."

This was interesting in itself.

An article "Manage Your Embedded Projects" in Embedded Systems Design described developer motivators:

  • "Achievement"

  • "Growth"

  • "Work itself"

  • "Personal Life"

  • "Technical supervision"

  • "Advancement"

  • "Relationship with peers"

  • "Recognition"

  • "Salary"

  • "Responsibility"

This data is adapted from Boehm, Software Engineering Economics (1981) and Herzberg, "One more time: how do you motivate employees?" Harvard Business Review (1987). So it is a bit outdated. The data in the article is used to demonstrate the difference in motivators between developers and managers. Similar findings are presented in Motivators of Software Process Improvement: an analysis of practitioners' views (2002) and De-motivators for software process improvement: an analysis of practitioners' views (2003), both by Nathan Baddoo and Tracy Hall.

We can go on to generalize this further, and think about differences of people and organizations. Value system of people has been recorded and studied for a long time. Von Rosenstiel and Koch (1) reported that the values have changed towards respecting the uniqueness of people, individualism, enjoyment and discipline,self-development and also material values. That is not enjoyment, it is enjoyment AND discipline among other things. To me the "just words" exercise showed that agile work actually builds on these values; the project was challenging and needed lot of skill, but that just made it interesting and fun - chido. In many cases this however is not following the values of the company, which often are still drawn from old school thinking, like punctuality, hard work, modesty and other values related to duty and acceptance. This discrepancy between values of employee and employer affects the commitment level. Lack of commitment, in turn, reduces employee motivation and effort.

Of course in large organizations values are mostly just lip service, but nevertheless above should lead organizations to rethink the value in their values.

(1) von Rosenstiel, Lutz and Koch, Stefan, Change in Socioeconomic Values as a Trigger of organizational Learning, Published in (Dierkes, Meinolf, Berthoin Antal, Ariane, Child, John, and Nonaka, Ikujiro, Handbook of Organizational Learning & Knowledge, Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 2001).


Yet Another Agile Seminar in Finland

It seems to be the time for another Agile Finland Seminar. It is organized by Agile Alliance, Reaktor Innovations, and F-Secure. Guys have set out to break the old record for short notice:

On October 14th, 2006, I sent an email to the AgileFinland Yahoo! group about the next Agile Seminar taking place only 9 days later. Guess what? Everything went well even with such a short notice so this time we decided to improve and give you an even shorter notice.

At the time of writing this there are 84 seats available. Go get yours...