Why values matter

I was surprised to see how much puzzle the category Values gave to the team members when we created their Personal Maps. 

A few months ago, to spice up the regular sprint Retrospective meetings and to better know my new coworkers we created many Personal Maps with my teams.  A Personal Map is a Management 3.0 exercise that helps improve communication, understanding, and trust within a team. The standard categories of a Personal Map include education, home, goals, values, friends, family, hobbies, and work. 


I was surprised to see how much puzzle the category Values gave to the team members. Most of the time colleagues sitting next to each other cannot come up with a single value about each other. Other times, they made up funny things to cover up the striking white empty space on the whiteboard. 

It kept me thinking... 

What is the origin of this? Why don't we talk about values in the workplace? Is this a taboo topic? Or we just simply don't care?  

Most people think that a difference in values can be a dealbreaker in relationships. But it seems that we are not so strict with this rule when it comes to work relationships. Unfortunately, I heard many stories when a job pressured an employee into doing something that was against his value set (luckily, it was not something worth a felony). 

A Retrospective meeting is a great time to do a bit of teambuilding besides its original purpose to look back on the sprint and find ways to improve. I chose to work with the guidelines given in chapter Value Stories and Culture Books from Jurgen Appelo's #Workout book. (The new edition of the book is called Managing for Happiness.)

How it worked 

Before the exercise, I took my time and thought about my own personal core values. It is always a good approach to practice and mentally visualize an exercise before doing it with your team. I used my core values as an example to better explain them the exercise. 

  1. I explained why it is important to talk about values at the workplace and within the team. I explained the difference between core values (the values they already have) and wish values (those they wish to have). 
  2. I handed out a list of values (from the #Workout book by Jurgen Appelo) to help them figure out their own. 
  3. I asked everyone (who wanted to participate in the exercise) to collect his/her personal values (maximum 5-6 per person). 
  4. I took the initiative and shared my own personal values with the team along with a short explanation of what these values mean to me. 
  5. Then, I asked each team member to share and explain theirs with the team. 
  6. I prepared a flipchart paper and started to collect those values that were common among team members. 
  7. I asked if there were any other value they wanted to add to the team values. 


At first, they were a bit puzzled why I started to talk about values but at the end it worth the time. The values they collected perfectly describes the Llama team. :) They are friendly, curious, four-legged :), nice, helpful, diligent, not over complicating, happy, and sticking together. 

The other team also liked the exercise. Our precious Ninja team is honest, intelligent, merry, sticking together, open, and loyal. Again, a perfect hit for them. 

I really love how both teams listed sticking together and happy/merry. I hope these exercises we do together contribute to this. :)


Are values discussed at your workplace? Do you know the core values of your co-workers? Do you know your own core values?

Let me know in the comments below or tweet to me @nikoletta_t