Blog Article

Company Values Don’t Matter

Jens Schumacher

Mar 7, 2024


minutes read


Many startups obsess in their early days about creating their company values. At Released, we've decided to skip the company values bandwagon — for now.

Let's be clear, companies are incredibly useful. They help align an organisation as it grows. Atlassian is a great example of how well values can work as you grow from 50 to 5000 people and beyond. They are lived by employees every day.

But when I joined Atlassian in 2004, we didn’t have company values. The values were introduced a year later once we grew past 25 people. Here is why you should consider doing the same:

Company values don’t matter (early on)

In early stage startups, it’s all about survival. Finding product market fit, securing funding, gaining traction. Company values are abstract in nature and will feel quite disconnected from the tangible goals in the early days.

Small Teams with Strong Cultures: With a small team, the company culture and values are often implicitly understood and shared, making formalized values seem redundant.

Resource Constraints: Startups operate with limited resources. Time and energy invested in defining and promoting company values might be viewed as a luxury that diverts attention from more pressing operational concerns.

When do company values become useful?

Scaling the Team: As startups grow, maintaining a coherent culture and ensuring every new hire is a good fit become challenging. Clearly articulated values help in attracting the right talent and setting expectations.

“Open company, no bullshit “ was probably one of the most important values as we scaled Atlassian. Not only did it influence how we worked, but it also influenced how we built our products. Take Confluence for example, by default, every document is open and accessible to all. It’s the complete opposite to Microsoft Word or Google Docs, where the default is closed, until the document is explicitly shared.

Building a Brand Identity: Values can help you stand out from competitors and create a strong relationship with your customers.

Our values at Atlassian become known for its somewhat edgy nature. Especially “Don’t fuck the customer” (I’m just quoting here).

Culture eats strategy for breakfast: Values serve as the foundation of a company’s culture, helping it remain grounded despite changes in strategy, leadership, or market conditions.

Guiding Decision-Making: Not every decision can be escalated. A strong set of values empowers employees to make decisions independently, confident they are in line with the company's overarching goals.

How to create your values

When it comes to creating your values there are two types of values you should consider:

1. Lived values - the things your company and it’s people are already doing

2. Aspirational values - the things you aren’t happy

Most of your values should be “lived values”. I’m sure you are doing a bunch of things right already. But it’s ok to have a couple of aspirational values.

At, we tended to be overly optimistic with timelines. As a result, we would always overpromise and underdeliver. As a result, we created an aspirational value to “Underpromise and overdeliver”.

When it comes to how many values you should establish, less is more. 5 is a great number. Any more, and people will struggle to remember them all, let alone live them every day.

If you are just getting started, postpone the company values discussion and focus your energy on your product values and how you will differentiate in your market.

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