The other day I was talking to a group of students from the Software Craftsmanship Guild about interviewing and selecting their first software development job. Much of the conversation focussed on organizational values and selecting a company that shares yours. On of the students asked me “How do you determine what a company values?” My answer was simple: “Ask them about their processes and practices.”
A job interview is a two-way street. The interviewer is trying to determine if they are talking to the right candidate. And the same time, the interviewer is trying to present the organization in the best possible way. Sometimes that means lying. Or at the very least, it means making a statement that the interviewer believes is true even though it’s demonstrably false.
Think about it for a second. Have you ever asked an interviewer “Does this company value collaboration?” Has anyone–in the history of the world–ever said “No” to that question?
“Does this company value collaboration?”
“Oh, hell no! Collaboration? Why we would do that? No, we force you to sit in your cubicle all day, headphones on, head down, banging out code for 8 hours a day. No one will ever ask your opinion, we’ll just pile on the work and you’ll knock it out.”
Imagine how quickly you’d run from the interview if you ever heard that answer! But the reality remains that there are companies that work just like that. And all of them will look you in the eye during the interview and tell you how much they value collaboration. And communication. And work/life balance…
If you really want to know what a company values, ask the interviewer about how the company operates. You’ll figure it out very quickly. If you want to know about collaboration, for example, ask who attends sprint planning. Ask how user story cards are sized. Ask how architecture is determined, or who writes the story cards, or what a junior developer does when a story card doesn’t make sense. If everyone on the team goes to sprint planning, and everyone on the team discusses architectural decisions together, and everyone on the team collectively sizes cards, etc., then you know the company values collaboration.
The simple truth this this: An organization’s processes and practices will reflect its values, regardless of what people say the values are.
And this fundamental truth is as important to understand for leaders as it is for interviewers.
If you are in a leadership position at your job, ask yourself what your organizational values are. Then ask yourself if your practices reflect those values. Do you value transparency? How many closed-door meetings do you have each week? Do you value collaboration? How many decisions each week do you make without anyone’s input? Do you value training? In what ways do you help your team learn new skills? Do you value mentorship? When was the last time you had a one-on-one meeting with your team’s most junior member?
What you claim you value is irrelevant. It’s what you do that reveals your true values.