Over the past month or so, my blog posts have dealt with organizational vision and mission. In the Vision post I defined organizational vision as “a picture of the future which creates an ideal and unique image of what the organization will become and/or the impact it will make.”. In the Mission post I defined organizational mission as “a definition of where you are going and what your organization is doing right now to attain the vision.”
So, what are organizational values and how do they fit in with vision and mission?
Organizational values are the bedrock of an organization. They are the foundation on which the organization is built. They describe the individual and corporate behaviors that will get the organization from where it is now, to achieving the mission and living the vision. Values are the driving forces that will lead your organization to success. A few examples of organizational values are;
- Employee and public safety
- Environmental responsibility
- Drive for results
- Goal oriented
- Market growth
- Employee growth
- Customer satisfaction
- Community involvement
- Technology leader
There is not one correct set of values for an organization. Every organization is unique and will have its own set of values. However, it is critical to note that;
- The values picked will set the tone for the entire organization and how it conducts business and how it is perceived by its employees, customers and industry peers
- Organizational values must be prioritized. For example, if you have safety and profitability as two of your values, which one takes priority in the case where there may be a conflict?
- An organization should only have 3 to 5 prioritized values. Any more than this tends to water down what the organization stands for and creates confusion as to what is really important.
- The leaders at all levels of the organization must understand these values and model them at all times. Employees will see through “lip-service” quickly. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
- Employees of an organization emulate the values that are modeled by their leaders
- Organizations that don’t “officially” state and model their values still have organizational values that are recognized and emulated by the employees. Just walk around that organization and do an informal poll of employees. They will definitely be able to state what values their leadership is modeling (and it usually isn’t what the leaders want to hear!)
- Organizational values must remain constant over time. Similar to a building’s foundation, the only time an organization should change its values is when it is going through a major “renovation” that will fundamentally affect the whole organization, what it is about and how it does business. “Core values and core purpose in enduring great organizations remain fixed, while their operating practices, cultural norms, strategies, tactics, processes, structures, and methods continually change in response to changing realities” Jim Collins
So what is the bedrock of your organization . . . what are your organizational values? Could your employees list these values? Could they list them in order of priority? How do you think the answers to these questions might be impacting your organization?
“In the long run, individual leaders do not hold an organization together; core values and purpose do.” Jim Collins
“If leaders are not true to the values they profess, people quickly lose confidence in their leadership.” Bill George
“As we struggle with the uniquely complex challenges of the 21st century, it is good to remind ourselves that what matters most now is what has always mattered: bedrock values.” Gary Hamel