Regarding the road map for percolating the organizational values - am attaching the following article.
building a values-driven organization
living the values
This article discusses how to translate values into day-to-day behaviours that everyone can support. The second article looks at how to connect your organizational values and vision, and actually use them strategically.
For most organizations, values statements are simply rhetoric that sits on a fancy plaque on the wall. Your real values are seen in the halls, not on the walls. High performing organizations are clear about their values and about what they translate into in day-to-day behaviour. They use their values strategically, to guide every decision and action.
Values are usually single words (such as ‘success,’ ‘trust,’ ‘teamwork,’ etc.) or short phrases that have a great deal of emotional power for the individual or the organization that lives by them. They define what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Values are, essentially, the non-compromisable rules of the game that, when violated, stop all action.
The challenge with values is that they are usually vague concepts that mean different things to different people. Every person usually has a strong sense of what typical values (trust, hard-work, etc.) mean, but the definitions different people have for the same value are usually not the same.
Most people, for example, may say they have integrity. If you ask them what integrity means to them, you’ll find that the internal definition each person has is unique. Thus, while two people may seem to agree on the concept, they may come into conflict when in comes time to put that value into practice in day-to-day action.
Instead of just stating abstract value statements, each value needs to be translated into the behaviours that it would drive, so that everyone is clear on what they mean. The general value needs to be interpreted in a way that everyone can understand and agree on its meaning. They then have to be used and lived by.
Essentially, there are two types of organizations. First are those that clearly spell out their values and what they mean in terms of expected actions, and then use these strategically. Then there are those that may make values statements, but when the crunch comes, those statements are abandoned because they have to make business decisions in the ‘real’ world. Ironically, the financial results of the first type of organization are often orders of magnitude better than the latter – tens or even hundreds of percent more profitable, in fact.
If you don’t live your stated values, you essentially have two sets of values – those that are actually lived and which form the basis of the organizational culture, and those that are stated as the ideal but which are not rewarded or supported. Employees of organizations that put value statements on the walls that are not seen in the halls see their employer as simply being hypocritical. In these cases, the pretty wall plaques actually do more damage than good. Employees can’t trust what’s said, and so live in greater uncertainty, impacting their productivity and commitment.
Your actual organizational values, and the associated acceptable behaviours, and thus your organizational culture, come from management, from the C.E.O. down. How executives act models the desired and expected behaviours. If the C.E.O. says one thing and asks another, so will management all the way down the line.
Accountability is critical when it comes to using values strategically. To truly give people a sense of control over their environment, you have to be able to hold everyone – including the C.E.O. and senior management – accountable for living the values. It must be safe for any employee to call any employee or manager on it when they are not living the values. Ideally, more formal 360 organizational climate surveys will show whether you are on-track with your values – or not. These are the true tests of whether an organization is living its values or not – and the greatest challenge.
If you want to be a values-driven organization, it’s a long, hard road. There are many tough decisions on how the values apply in each situation, especially when it may hurt the company in the short-term. The payback more than makes up for it, but many organizations are not ready for what’s required to make it work. For those who are not ready to walk this road, it’s better not to even put the pretty plaques on the wall. They may as well continue as they always have been.
Once those who are ready to build a real values-based organization have designed the core organizational values and their meanings, these values must be aligned with the vision of the organization.
Your organization’s vision provides the focus for all your people to ensure that they are acting and making decisions in the best interests of the organization. Without this understanding, an employee may make what (s)he believes to be the best decision, from his or her limited perspective, but which may cost the organization far more in the long-term.
While your values describe how you are taking the journey, your vision shows where you are going.
You can sculpt a vision at several levels, as illustrated below in the Value-Added Curve, developed by Michael Basch. The axis along the bottom shows the needs of the employee that are met by the organization, ranging from physical needs through informational and so forth. The vertical axis shows the value added to the employee, and also the corresponding value the employee re-invests into the organization as a result of that level of organizational commitment.
Meeting the physical needs of the employees means that they are told what to do in their corner of the world, and expected to do it in exchange for a paycheck. Ideally, they have the resources they need to do the job, although this is not always the case. At this level, employees are in the dark as to what is going on elsewhere in the organization, have no idea of what the vision is (and there may not be one) and may not even be clear as to what the organization does overall. They can easily do something that hurts the organization because they don’t know any better, and they are often severely punished or reprimanded if that happens.
At this level, personal power can be extremely low, and thus the costs of stress extremely high. This is exacerbated when there are many organizational changes. These changes are demanded without any reason being given, increasing feelings of helplessness. Unfortunately, this is all too common, particularly at the lower levels of many organizations. One of the causes of this is the traditional view of information being power, and thus managers withhold information because they perceive that gives them power.
I have seen organizations at this level that actually get employees motivated enough to work together to solve a problem. When the team made the presentation to the CEO, he applauded them for their work, and then said that it was good considering what they knew, but there was one additional piece of information they didn’t have that invalidated all of their work. He knew that piece of information before the team started, but he kept it to himself. In so doing, he was worse off than before. He actually got them working together on a problem – the next time, they’ll have nothing to do with it. There’s no point.
The next level of employee needs that can be met are their informational needs. This involves letting them understand how they fit in the organization, what the organizational goals are, and how it is doing. They understand how they fit in the puzzle and how they contribute, allowing them to make more effective decisions.
At the informational level, employees’ personal power is enhanced, and they are more likely to make decisions that support the organization. The costs of stress will likely be lower and they are more likely to perform consistently at a satisfactory level. However, to consistently perform at a high standard, they need more.
It is only at the emotional level that vision starts to take root. While it has to be kept simple, an effective vision has to be compelling to all of the employees to be effective. There must be an emotional buy-in that compels an employee to commit to a higher level of performance. That is why there is a ‘glass ceiling’ shown between the informational and the emotional level. It is at this point that the difference between ‘managing things and leading people’ becomes clear. This is where leadership is required at all levels in the organization to build the personal power and tap the full potential of each employee in the organization.
A true vision addresses the spiritual need of the employee – the need to be a part of something greater than (s)he alone. It means having a vision and a purpose that are so compelling people want to be a part of it and a part of creating it. It is this level of commitment that creates the scores of legendary stories common to organizations such as Federal Express, where drivers pawned their watches to buy gas for their vehicles. They knew they were part of something greater and this raised their level of commitment through the roof.
When the Gulf War hit, the Department of National Defense worked together at a level that hadn’t been seen in years. They broke every rule in the book, all union-management issues were tossed aside, and they were operational in three weeks because they had something greater to which they were all committed. In peacetime, there is no such common driving force for them, and all sorts of problems and bureaucracy get in the way, but in wartime, they have a common focus and clear vision of where they are going.
As challenging as it is to create a compelling vision, just having it by itself is not enough, as evidenced by the military. Their systems do not support working together effectively. Like any bureaucracy, these systems drive organizations down to the addressing only the physical needs of the employees – or worse. The Gulf War created a compelling vision and urgency that over-rode those systems. However, once the urgency abated, the bureaucratic systems reasserted themselves and the traditional problems resurfaced. Each element in this system is critical for long-term results. The vision is a starting point, but useless without the other elements of the system in place supporting it.
If you truly want to make your corporate vision and values work for you, it takes a lot of work and energy to make the internal systems work to support them. That’s a long, hard road that’s not for everyone. You can certainly run a profitable organization at the physical or informational levels, and that’s more than enough for some. The payback for going beyond this point is incredible, and definitely well earned once you’re there. Are you ready to invest what it takes to get there?
16th March 2005 From India, Pune