The values I have in mind are "the things we think are important." In engineering speak, values are measures of merit. They are the signs of sophistication and other desirable attributes (and the context I have in mind is organizations, technologies and processes). This stuff matters because our values shape our objectives, and at the end of the day, values are the yardstick we use to assess whether good things have happened or not.
In my FIST-related writings, I talk about values as the answer to the question "What is important and good?" and I often describe FIST as a values-based approach. It basically says "It is important and good to be Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny." There are other value sets out there, and mostly they go unstated, unexamined, unconsidered and untested. That's a HUGE problem.
See, if we value complexity (either explicitly or unconsciously), we'll make the system more complicated and think we've done something good - even if it's not actually any better. You see this a lot in PowerPoint presentations - people who think they are effective communicators because they included every word, every comma, every data point and every possible nuance of every diagram in their 800-chart presentation (for their 15 minute time slot). You also see this in over-engineered systems, chock-full of a million good ideas. I'm going to suggest these are examples of values out of whack. Overvaluing complexity drives unproductive behavior.
Similarly, if we think spending a lot of money guarantees quality, we'll feel reassured by a high price tag, even if a smaller price might have delivered better results, better quality. Same thing with time - if we value the slow-and-steady approach, the fact that it took 20 years to deliver a system gives us a warm feeling, even if such expenditures were unnecessary.
So, the questions are: what values drive your project? What values contribute to positive outcomes, and improved operational effectiveness? And to come full circle to the afore-mentioned discussion, when people praise the F-22 as "the most capable aircraft" in our inventory, what are they really praising? What values are driving that assessment? What basis is there for those values?
Frankly, this question doesn't come up often enough in program management circles, which is a bummer because I think it's at the core of the whole discipline.