What Are Values?
No, not “What Is Value?”. I already did that. 🙂
Rather, what are “values”. As in e.g.
“Agile is much more a set of values than a set of practices.”
~ Andrew Binstock
I guess different folks have many different conceptions of “values”. Before my Road to Damascus experience with Nonviolent Communication, I probably would have described “values” using terms like “moral values”, ethics, good-and-bad, right-and-wrong, and so on.
But now, having seen The Light, here’s how I’m using the term:
Values are what drives us to choose – often subconsciously – one particular strategy for getting our needs met from a range of possible strategies. We choose a particular strategy because of how we feel about it. If we feel more comfortable with a particular strategy, we’re more likely to choose it over other strategies with which we feel less comfortable.
Note that this has little to do with rational thought, such as a logical evaluation of the relative merits of the chosen strategy – whether it might work well for us, whether it might best serve us in getting our needs met.
We sorry humans often choose suboptimal strategies (understatement!). Suboptimal strategies which fail to get our needs met, or even actively work against us getting our needs met. We might choose to say that we do this because we are following our “values”. BTW Chris Argyris refers to this as our “theories in use”.
So when folks talk about “Agile values”, for me this implies a certain set of strategies for attending to the individual and collective needs of the folks in a team – as well as the needs of the higher-ups, customers, etc.. Often, these strategies are very different from those strategies more widespread in the team’s containing (parent) organisation. We might hear folks describe this in terms of different – and competing – “value-systems”.
FWIW I more often describe this as a clash of mindsets. I don’t see the differences in nomenclature – mindsets vs memeplexes vs value-systems – as being very material in this context.
Of course, “Agile values” are an attempt to share – and encourage the adoption of – strategies that some luminaries in the software development community believed (circa 2001) are more likely to get folks’ needs met than some other strategies – for example, those implicit in “traditional business value-system” a.k.a. the Analytic Mindset.
How does this all fit with your values?