Scrum Notes 2013-20

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Value Expressions ▶️

Fun used to be something people had when they were happy. It was spontaneous, playful, irreverent. But now it is a "Corporate Value". I find that so very sad. But wait, sadness isn't a corporate value, so snap out of it. This is a fun place to work. Have fun. Have fun now.

I don't know about you, but when I read (admittedly, well-meaning) value statements like this one, I cringe. If I stop to reflect I feel angry and even violated. Why do we put up with this? This is surely the worst kind of paternalism—the kind that acts as if it isn't trying to control you as it sucks away your soul through institutionalised fun, oh and just the right level of weirdness. God help us!

I'd like to see corporate value statements read more like these examples, which I'll call value expressions, because expressions are generally more open than statements.

Value Expression for a publicly traded company

  • Our primary concern is to make money for our shareholders. To do this we need our employees to do what is necessary to create short-term profit. This may go against your better natures, cause you to make suboptimal decisions, or even create an air of aggression and competition within our organization. To be successful we need you to find your own way to enjoy this strange, dehumanizing culture, and if it truly becomes intolerable make a conscious decision to move on. This is our reality today, and we prefer not to disguise it with platitudes and feel-good slogans.

Value Expression for a tech startup

  • We value you—heart, mind, body, spirit with all your history, dysfunction, emotional complexity, quirks, samenesses and differences, with your hopes and aspirations. Do your best. We trust you.

In this second example there is really nothing more to say. All that nonsense about innovation, creativity, communication, collaboration, growth, passion, learning, etc. is absolutely unnecessary. You are a startup. Of course you value those things.

Once we move past such coercive, directive documents maybe we can actually start to value real, non-corporate emotions such as sadness, confusion, unknowing and even hurt, and then begin to treat people as human beings, complex, confused, often wounded. The phoney talk of "fun" and "diversity" with all its associated expectations of conformity will evaporate, and we'll start to embrace actual, whole people.

Yeah, it's scary. It means we might not have fun in the office. On the other hand, you may be surprised to rediscover what fun actually is—something that arises from our spirits, not something that's declared in a corporate mission statement.

Palo Alto, 23/12/2014   comment