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Seb Anthony

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Determining organisation values


The board is currently deciding its strategic direction and 5 year plan. The current values are under review and the board are questionning whether the values will result in behaviours that the plan outcomes need to succeed.

I'm looking for a process, any commercial evidence of values contributing to performance and any reading/reference materials that link values to behaviour. Can anyone help, please?

Denise Amoss

4 Responses

  1. board values
    An essential first step, in my experience, is to take one of the current values and get them to write down an example of what it would mean in practice:- for Board members, for Heads of dept, for frontline workers, and any other two categories. In the same way, choose a couple of challenging situations and describe behaviour in that situation which would be demonstrating the value. (whistle-blowing, accidents, loss of customers, H&S issues) This gives them a feeling for what values are meant to do.

    Generally speaking,I find that it’s more useful to start with the kind of behaviour you want, and work back from that to the value that would drive it. It sounds crazy, but I promise you it delivers a much more robust set of values than just picking ‘nice-to-have’s out of the air.

    Another possiblity is to work through a standard values-clarification exercise. I could give you more details if it would help.

    And a third is to take some recent examples of an activity carried out by the organisation and imagine what an onlooker would assume the values of the organisation to be, as demonstrated by the behaviour.

    A useful definition of a value is that it is a belief or assumption underlying and driving behaviour – and that it is chosen, cherished and lived out in practice.
    To be worth anything, values need to be consistently demonstrated and manifested at the top; so checking to what extent board members would feel able to model those values is also important.

    I’m probably making a meal of this, but it’s only worth messing with values if it’s done authentically – otherwise you end up the cynicism and disaffection.

  2. Values and recruitment
    Hi Denise

    I did my MSc on the importance of values in recruitment and rentention and I daresay I could bore for England on the subject, but I do at least have a very comprehensive reading list! Let me know if you’d like me to pick bits out of this for you – I warn you though, it’s academic in focus and may raise more questions than it answers! On the issue of values contributing to performance, my view is that values provide the basis for differentiation between one organisation and another and therefore are vital in retention of both employees and customers.

    In terms of process, a useful starting point might be to check the values mean the same things to all members of the board (there is often a very wide variety of interpretations!). Take each part of the business strategy, list what needs to happen, how it needs to happen and see if these things relate to your understanding of the values as they currently are.

    Best of luck!

  3. A process to develop values that reflect reality
    Hi Denise

    One of the most successful ways of ensuring that values and behaviour are linked is to inquire into the underlying factors which give life to the organisation – these are the values in action and are the factors that underpin success. A process for identifying these is Appreciative Inquiry – identify what works and distill that into a series of statements of the DNA of the organisation. This is something that can be done simply and quickly in and organisation and reslts in a set of values that have a sense of reality for everyone involved – they are linked to what we know has alredy worked – and are therefore easily accepted and implemented (especially if the organisation is involved in the inquiry).

    A behaviour model can be determined at the same time which can be integrated into a perfomance management system, and again has high validity as there is a direct connection to the organisation reality – it is not just a wish list.

    If you are more intereted in creating a set of values that reflect a change of direction rather than a confirmation of the past/present success, then the inquiry could look at values/behaviours that have enabled change to happen successfully.

    Or I have developed a connection between organisation culture (as measured by the Harrison/Handy model) and behaviour – so you can look at surveying existing and desired culture (values) and identify the behaviour changes necessary to meet the change. (I have recently conducted a project linkin both approaches with a local authority).

    There is an article on the culture/behaviour connection that I can send you if you contact me off-line. Happy to also share experiences and case studies.

    Good luck!

    Geof Cox

  4. ‘Built to Last’
    For me, one of the most helpful contributions to the role values play in organisations (and some practical ways of uncovering them and reinforcing them) is found in ‘Built to Last’ by Collins and Porras. If you’re familiar with this book go back to it and re-read what they have to say. If you don’t know the book then I really recommend tracking down a copy. (Should be pretty easy to get hold of). Their work was based on a large empirical study which may well also help you with demonstrating the link between values and performance.


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