Our values are inspired by the format of the agile manifesto. That is, while there’s some value in the things on the right in the list below - and you could legitimately build a company with the things on the right as values - we choose the things on the left.
At Octopus Deploy, we value:
Listening to our customers, over following market trends.
Helping each other, over being efficient individual contributors.
Doing the right thing by our customers & team, over short-term gain.
Doing a smaller number of things at high quality, over trying to do everything or arbitrary deadlines.
A bias for action, over risk aversion, or the pursuit of the perfect plan.
You may notice that some of these values conflict with each other. For example, there’s a tension between “a bias for action” and “high-quality work”. Navigating this tension is something we’ve all got to figure out.
For over 7 years, we had no written set of values that were widely communicated. At Kick-Off 2020 a group of us got together in an unconference session titled “Ugh… values. We have them, but they aren't written down. What should we write?“ Octopus was about 60 people at the time. There was a nagging feeling that it might be worth writing a few things down as the company was growing.
As a group, after some discussion, we decided it would be worth writing our values down, and championing them. We didn’t want values like “integrity” though. We figured that a good set of values would:
Capture the things we don’t want to compromise on in pursuit of growth
Be a lens through which we think about our decision making
Cause us to say “no” when there are a lot of good reasons to say “yes”, or in other words, help us decide what sort of company we want to be and avoid chasing short-term profit
In defining these values, we've tried to think about what values would cause us to say "no" to an opportunity that would otherwise seem like a profitable or cost-effective idea today. In other words, what are we prepared to lose money over? In hiring, this might mean saying "no" to someone who we think could deliver outstanding results, but might change the company culture in a way that's not compatible with these values. In making commercial decisions, it might cause us to say no to a potential customer, or to make a decision that costs us in the short term.
It's foolish to think that nothing will change as the team grows. Some roles will probably become more specialized over time; new team members we hire will add to our culture (in ways that are positive!), and we'll probably have more processes to help us make sense of all the work we're doing. Our values are the things we don't want to change as the company grows. A lot may change as we grow, but we think it would be sad if these values did.
Our values also serve as a way to hold ourselves and management to account. We won’t always live up to our values, but we should try to. And we should tell each other when we think we’re off-track. We can look at things we’ve done in the past that we weren’t proud of, and these values help us to express why.