Kieran Klaassen

I'm Kieran, a creator and engineer, composer and baker. I craft with love, creating code to croissants. My journey is one of curiosity and discovery, guided by a simple vision: to inspire and be true to myself.

The Importance of Value Alignment in Teams

In any company, different values and personalities coexist, shaping the work environment and impacting team dynamics. On one hand, there’s the “zero to one” mentality, where the goal is to rapidly test ideas, often at the expense of code quality. On the other hand, some engineers focus on creating robust, scalable, and maintainable code, ensuring long-term sustainability and growth. This dichotomy can lead to stress and conflict, especially when there is a lack of alignment within teams or between individual and organizational values.

The symptoms of misalignment are clear: slow development speeds due to conflicts, unhappiness among team members, and inefficient collaboration. Ironically, the people who want to move fast may find themselves slowing down, while those who prefer to take their time have big potential of speeding up. Finding the right balance and aligning values is crucial for creating a productive and harmonious work environment.

Stress from Misalignment

The concept of stress arising from personal value misalignment is supported by adaptive personality styles, where individuals adapt to their environment’s demands. However, when these demands diverge significantly from one’s intrinsic values, long-term stress and dissatisfaction can result. This is particularly evident in scenarios where teams are expected to oscillate between rapid, hacky development and meticulous, scalable coding without clear guidance on the company’s overarching objectives.

Imagine a software engineering team working on a new product. The team lead, Sarah, is a strong proponent of the “zero to one” approach, emphasizing speed and experimentation over code quality. On the other hand, Mark, values clean, maintainable code that can scale with the company’s growth. As the project progresses, Mark finds himself constantly torn between meeting Sarah’s expectations for rapid iterations and his own desire to write robust, well-architected code and Sarah gets frustrated by all the “unneccesary” work she is doing.

This tension is not unique to Mark and Sarah’s team. Research by W. Cram (2012) highlights the importance of aligning organizational values with those of project team members. When values align, team members experience higher satisfaction and enthusiasm. Conversely, misalignment breeds frustration and discontent, ultimately impacting project performance.

The construction industry offers valuable insights into the impact of team alignment on project success. Najafizadeh and Hamzeh (2023) emphasize the crucial role of consistent communication and acceptance of shared values in achieving project objectives. Drawing a parallel to software development, teams that openly discuss and agree upon their values and approaches are more likely to work harmoniously towards a common goal.

Bezrukova et al. (2012) delve deeper into the effects of cultural alignment on performance. Their findings suggest that strong results-oriented cultures can mitigate the negative impact of group faultlines, while misaligned cultures exacerbate performance issues. In Mark and Sarah’s case, a clear, unified direction from leadership could help bridge the gap between their divergent approaches and foster a more cohesive team culture.

Proactive conflict management is another key aspect of maintaining team harmony. Fitzpatrick (2007) presents evidence that values alignment fosters collaboration and reduces conflict within organizations. By actively aligning values, teams can preempt and manage conflicts before they escalate. Imagine if Sarah and Mark’s team had an open discussion about their values and found a middle ground that balanced speed and code quality. This proactive approach could have prevented the tension from building up and affecting their work.

At the heart of successful teams lie shared values, attitudes, and beliefs. Fisher et al. (1996) found a positive correlation between team performance and the presence of common values among team members. When individuals’ values align with those of the team, they are more likely to work effectively together towards a shared vision.


Long-term misalignment between personal and organizational values can lead to stress, reduced productivity, and erosion of company culture. Ensuring that team members’ values align with organizational goals is crucial for maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment. Clear communication and consistent value alignment can mitigate conflicts, enhance collaboration, and ultimately lead to higher project success rates.

Taking the time to align values and foster a shared understanding within teams is important for long term success. By creating a culture that values both speed and quality, experimentation and scalability, organizations can empower their teams to innovate while building robust, sustainable software.

Surprisingly, aligning values can lead to faster development speeds for those who prioritize speed, and higher-quality code for those who prefer to take their time. By finding the right balance and creating a shared vision, teams can work more efficiently and effectively towards their goals.

Values Exercise Guide

This excercise it inspired by “Engineering Management for the Rest of Us” by Sarah Drasner.


The values exercise is designed to help team members identify their personal core values, align these values with the team’s values, and foster a cohesive and supportive work environment.

Step 1: Preparation

  1. Create a List of Core Values: Compile a comprehensive list of values (e.g., integrity, innovation, teamwork). You can use resources such as Brene Brown’s list of values or create your own.
  2. Schedule the Exercise: Set aside 1-2 hours for this exercise. Ensure all team members are available and aware of the purpose of the session.

Step 2: Individual Reflection

  1. Distribute the List of Values: Give each team member a copy of the core values list.
  2. Select Personal Values: Ask each person to silently review the list and select their top five values. They should write these values on sticky notes or index cards.
  3. Reflect on Choices: Each team member should write a brief explanation (1-2 sentences) for each chosen value, describing why it is important to them.

Step 3: Group Discussion

  1. Share Values: Have each team member share their top five values with the group, along with their explanations.
  2. Identify Common Values: As values are shared, group similar values together on the whiteboard or large paper.
  3. Discuss Differences: Encourage open discussion about any differing values. Seek to understand each person’s perspective and how these values impact their work and interactions.

Step 4: Alignment and Integration

  1. Highlight Core Values: Identify the core values that resonate with the majority of the team. Discuss how these values align with the company’s mission and goals.
  2. Create a Team Values Statement: Collaborate to create a values statement that reflects the team’s shared values. This statement can be used as a guiding principle for decision-making and behavior.
  3. Action Plan: Develop an action plan for how these values will be integrated into daily work practices. This can include:
    • Regular check-ins to discuss how values are being upheld.
    • Incorporating values into performance reviews.
    • Creating initiatives that promote the team’s core values.

Step 5: Follow-Up

  1. Regular Reviews: Schedule periodic reviews of the team values to ensure they remain relevant and are being practiced.
  2. Adjust as Needed: Be open to revisiting and adjusting the values as the team evolves.

Tips for Success

Example Values List

By conducting this values exercise, you can help align personal values with team and organizational goals, fostering a more cohesive and supportive work environment.