Values Need More Than Posters [8 Keys to an effective values framework]

Values can be effective in sustaining a great organisational culture as well as building a new one.

Values have had their proponents and detractors and I will admit to being a bit cynical about the use of values in an organisation to drive a cultural change.  I have changed my stance a bit based on some of these components to a values framework.

1.  A reasonably well known company I am familiar with adopted a very democratic method to choosing a new set of values for the business.  There were committees, surveys, arguments, pilots and all sorts other change elements in a process that took 3 years.  No exaggeration.  Some or most of your values should be reasonably obvious based on how you ‘roll’ now.  Your entire culture and its norms could not possibly be all bad.

2.  Values need to be part of the language of the organisation.  The best models are the leadership.  The modelling must be behavioural.  You do not need posters on the wall with inspirational images and the values.  In my experience this actually cheapens the meaning and power of the values.  I think it may have something to do with those inspirational posters that spawned in offices all over the world in the 80’s and 90’s.

3.  Decision making needs to be based on the values.  When decisions are made they will be scrutinised by people for alignment with the values.  When leaders present and discuss decisions they must frame them in the values.

4.  The values must be simple and easy to understand for every member of the workforce.  The language and words need to be economical and clear just like good journalism.  If you have a diverse work force that includes persons with different primary languages this is even more important.

5.  Repeat the values all the time in communications.  It is well known that communications are heard by a few, understood by fewer and adopted by virtually none.  The way that managers and leaders lift the odds is by constantly repeating the values.  It will seem weird but it works.  Repetition of message.

6.  Build your values into team meetings, social gatherings and all other events where people are assembling in teams and groups.  You can do this by communicating the purpose of these events as well as including them in the agenda.

7.  Publicly recognise behaviour and performance that is aligned with and demonstrates the values of the organisation.  You may choose to create an award that recognises people who demonstrate the values and make this part of your organisations tradition.

8.  Performance appraisals must include the values and they should be discussed and ranked by the employee, the manager and an agreed ranking by both.  You can build a great culture more quickly when values are included in performance appraisals and recognition processes.  When you are looking at succession or termination decisions the values need to play a key if not primary role in the decisions.