A brief commentary on values: Aligning actions with values
By Moira Katz MD Kavan Consultants
‘Values are even more significant today in terms of how upper management interacts with all employees at all levels. It is far better to have a self-designed way of doing business than to be bound by government legislation’.
Values are not words that senior management decides are important to use when describing the organisation. They are a shared set of fundamental, guiding beliefs that drive the way the organisation acts and reacts to society. They are the essential principles that steer their core decisions. These values are ultimately statements of faith, rather than something that can be proved in advance. They imply a choice about how the organisation
> Spends its resources
The test of the organisation's values is whether they can actually be observed being practised in the workplace. They are not valid unless they are being implemented. There is a significant difference between saying that you value something and then behaving in a manner that shows that you value it. Put more simply, it is useful to compare "the way we do things around here" or "what's important around here" or "the way it is" (actions) with "the way it should be" (values). If the two are identical, hooray! You are doing things right. But if there is a gap, something needs to be done. By comparing "the way it is" with "the way it should be" a team has a foundation for developing action plans and determining priorities to implement desired values.
# How to become value driven
The best time to compare the organisation's values with its actions is during the annual planning process. This is the time to see if you are planning to run your team/department/organisation in line with what you say you value.
An effective way to enable a group to realistically, and quantitatively assess their values, and the current implementation of these values, is for each person in a group to write down on blank cards "the way it is" as opposed to "the way it should be", in their team/the department/the organisation. The group then creates a profile of values versus actions
For example, take a value such as "valuing diversity", and then complete the sentence, "This value is shown by the way we should be....................... What we are actually doing is ............."
This profile serves as the basis for developing an action plan with the team focussed on actions, which will implement the vision and demonstrate that the desired values are being lived.
Now comes the video test. "If you put this value into action, and it works so well that a television team comes to make a programme on the organisation and its values, what are you going to tell the camera operator to photograph?" This is challenging thinking and forces movement into specifics; it also marks the difference between abstract statements and visible commitments.
Values, like culture, cannot be imposed. All employees, especially senior management, must internalise these values, believe in them and live them. A change in thinking is necessary from, for example, "My boss pays my salary, so my objective is to keep the boss happy," to "My customers pay my salary, and so my objective is to do my best to keep them happy."
Values begin with the leader having clarity about his or her own values and not being afraid to speak about them, but not being obsessive either. A widely shared vision and a set of core values that can be implemented, remain the best alternative to an overwhelming paper-based control system.