Why values are so important?

I was speaking with a client the other day about how an organisation he knew needed to better understand its existing values prior to moving forward. There is model that has been used by hundreds of thousands of organisations globally. It’s called Spiral Dynamics and looks at how values affect groups. Working on a series of levels, this 5-minute video gives you a serious look at your own business population and what your people value. Is your organisation at Level 1 to Level 5 or Level 7 – have a look and consider. Almost certainly there will be attributes that cross the levels, and certain tenancies will also be rife – ENJOY.

I thought I’d pen a few thoughts on this topic. I think there are at least five key things to consider:

  1. Do you know what values currently drive your people & how would you find this out?
    One way is to use a values survey or values measurement tool or group session on understanding how people feel the organisation treats them and what’s driving their current behaviours.
  2. How do you change them?
    If the current values are different to what you thought they’d be, how do you then change them? This is where things start to get interesting. Suppose you spend 4 hours in a room with your top 5 execs coming up with “SEVEN KEY ORGANISATIONAL VALUES” and then post them all over the place. Can and does this work?
  3. Involve the masses, but make sure you have a strategy to narrow down the results!
    If you use a survey as suggested above, rank the areas people have rated as “Most Important” and then look more into how these match the organisation. A specific intervention might take the form of a workshop where significant numbers of people (or an example population) go through the results and are asked for feedback on any extremes.
  4. Bringing “values” to life!
    Don’t just rest on your laurels once you have some traction. Have your managers consider how those values in every area of the business will and do affect them and what this means. E.g. Integrity is a great word, but what does it mean in the context of your business unit and how might it affect your internal talent management strategies?Often I see execs performance managing team members for taking too much sick leave or annual leave at crucial times, and then a week later they execute a key change management piece and take the following off because it had been “planned for ages”.
  5. Be congruent and vigilant about what you do.
    As you co-create the values in your organisation with your people, be careful of the behaviours you and your exec team exhibit in the business on a daily basis. Have a complete congruency between sets of values and the specific behaviours you and your teams display, ensuring they all link back.

By following the above five points, you create a continuous process of improvement around what’s valued inside your organisation. Check out Jim Collins, author of Good to Great & Built to Last in a 2-minute Video brief on the power of values here. Ensure that at the centre of any intervention are things like performance management & change management processes & implications have been fully thought through.

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