As a development manager I relished reading Martin Fowler’s description of values at ThoughtWorks:
- Leveraging bright people over Making the most of moderate people
- Flexible career paths over Well-defined roles
- Delivering business value over Leading edge research
- Learning new technologies over Mastering established technologies
- Solving difficult problems over Increasing market share
- Learning from mistakes over Avoidance of taking risks
- Delivery to the client over Quarterly results
The template is the same as the Agile Manifesto, and it really helps highlight what the real values are by showing them in comparison. Some of them are even daring as they admit to paths they aren’t considering.
Leveraging bright people over making the most of moderate people contradicts the patterns of many IT shops where the model is to maintain a small staff and bring in contractors or consultants for any significant projects. The premise is IT is a service and not core to many businesses so why bother finding the best people. I think this line of thinking is deeply flawed, but what ThoughtWorks is stating is that they intentionally seek out high performers over bringing in mid-range people who can bang out a bunch of hours.
Aligned with utilizing high performers there is an emphasis on flexible career paths, learning new technologies, solving difficult problems, and learning from mistakes. These are the sort of values that are really going to appeal to those high performers. At the end of the day you’re going to have your biggest impact through who you can bring in or recruit to the team. And after dozens of projects over the years Agile, Waterfall, or just cowboy style the best predictor of success was always the quality of people on the team.
Finally there’s a focus on delivering value to the customer over short term gains or cool new research. At the end of the day ThoughtWorks exists because it has clients who need software delivered.
This is a great starting set of values for even an internal IT development group who really wants to envision high quality and performance. It makes writing a departmental charter easy and conveys the critical values in a highly meaningful way.