In this article, we’ll be examining the art of creating Organisational Values which are powerful and relevant. Ones that will help to bring your Vision Statement and strategic plan to life through unlocking the potential and the passion of your people.
This article is part of our mini series ‘Strategic Planning 101’. You can download our free Strategic Planning 101 eBook which contains all of the articles from the series here:
You can find the individual articles for Strategic Planning 101 here:
- Strategic Planning 101 – The Basic Foundations
- How to Write a Good Vision Statement
- How to Create Organisational Values
- Creating Focus Areas for your Strategy
- Writing Good Strategic Objectives
Know your People
Organisational Values are sometimes viewed as superfluous. In many cases, employees and customers alike dismiss them as mere marketing gimmicks. Our view is different – we see Values as a critical part of the strategic planning process – the reason being, that they go right to the heart of the most important ingredient of your strategy – your people.
Here’s how we see Values fitting into to the bigger strategic picture:
Internal vs External Values
This is the difference between creating Organisational Values intended for your own people, vs Values aimed at your customers or other stakeholders. We’re going to go out-on-a-limb here and say that in our own experiences, internal Values are almost always more powerful for helping you to execute your plan, than external ones.
External Values are always more prone to being gimmicky and marketing oriented. Not that there cannot be cross-over, or indeed a single set of Values that apply to both – but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to skew heavily towards internal Values and how best to devise them.
Avoiding fluffy, vacuous Values
Perhaps the single biggest reason that Values are so often seen as gimmicky, is because they didn’t emerge ‘naturally‘. In a perfect world, your Values should really write themselves, as they should reflect the qualities and traits of the people you have already hired. Whenever we make decisions about whether to hire or work with someone, we unconsciously assess their Values as part of that process.
Look at the people around you – those who the organisation’s success truly relies upon – and ask yourself what it was that made you decide to work with them. With any luck, you’ll be able to identify shared and consistent Values among those people. Shared Values help to create synergy – and a team of people working synergistically together will always be stronger then a group of disconnected individuals – no matter how smart they may individually be. It’s not a matter of dismissing individuality, but rather one of recognising the power of a tight set of core behaviours that everyone shares, understands and embraces
If you go through this exercise and still find it hard to tease out common themes (perhaps you’re still in the early hiring phase, or maybe you want to make broader changes) – don’t worry, there’s another way of looking at things that should get you to the same result.
Think about your next hire:
- What type of behaviors and mindset are you looking for?
- What personality traits will help the new person to work well with the rest of the team?
- What type of individual potential will be most useful for the greater good of the organisation?
Creating Organisational Values: The Process in Action
To give a tangible example, we wanted to share with you our internal set of Values here at Cascade Strategy. In other articles in the series, we’ve used a hypothetical Bakery company for our examples – but Values are simply too personal to be anything other than the genuine article. Here’s how we went about creating Organisational Values that we still stand by today:
Value 1: Learn everyday
We’re a small but growing organisation. The strongest trait that our organisation needs to achieve success is self-motivated people. Arguably the two most important drivers of this are a) a passion for what you do and b) the ability to genuinely enjoy your work and embrace it as a positive aspect of your life. In the long term, the only thing that can consistently deliver both a) and b) are a process of continued challenge and learning. Why do we enjoy games (sports, video games, board games, you name it…)? – We enjoy them because they’re challenging, and as we learn and improve, we apply that knowledge to move continuously forward – our reward is progress – and that progress gives a sense of pleasure. We applied exactly the same principle in devising our first Organisational Value.
How do we bring it to life?
We encourage and fully allow people to discover and work with the tools and technologies they want to learn. We empower them to implement the processes or techniques they wish to try, and research new ways of doing things. We allow them to change their minds and we never rebuke ‘failure’.
Value 2: Improve continuously
The market we are in with our strategy software Cascade, is a competitive one. Our strength will never be as a defensive entity who protects our intellectual property or throws large amounts of money on broad funnel-based marketing campaigns. Instead, we need to continuously improve and enhance our products and our service – moving them both forward quite literally on a daily basis. We need this same mentality in each and every one of our people.
How do we bring it to life?
We’ve installed a culture of self-reflection, and each associate is invited to reflect upon their own and each other’s work constructively. There is always something we can improve, whether it’s a concept or a product feature. No-one shies away from honesty, and the only way to take a bolder and sometimes disruptive position as a team, is to express ourselves by being ourselves. If someone has a view on how something can be done better – they are encouraged to express it at the earliest possible moment, without waiting to have devised a fully formed solution. This is in stark contrast to the culture in many large corporates, where inadvertently, people have come to the conclusion that they should only voice a concern, when they have a robust and fully developed alternative in mind. Individual egos are replaced by a collective effort.
Value 3: Stay connected
This is our broadest Value and the one which we encourage each individual to interpret in a different and highly personal way. For some it’s about being connected to our customers – for others, it’s more societal or even environmental. All these stakeholders are important to the success of our business. By allowing people to interpret this Value in their own way, it engenders more passion when it comes to fighting for the best outcomes for any particular stakeholder. We need to fight fiercely for the needs and wants of each of our stakeholders and we’ve found no better way to do this, than by making things personal.
How do we bring it to life?
We create synergies between functional teams as much as we can – even when those teams deal with ultimately very different stakeholders. There is no such thing as IT that only does IT, or marketing that only does marketing. Everyone talks to each other and presents their ideas and work. We ask everybody their own opinion about business strategies and decisions, and we forward sales or support emails to all associates – not just those responding on the front line. Transparency is great for motivation and giving a sense of the bigger picture.
A Summary of the key steps you need to take
- Analyse the behavioral traits of those around you and identify themes
- Ask yourself what traits you will be looking for in your next hires
- Understand your own strengths and weaknesses as an organisation – and try to create Organisational Values which will play to your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses
- Bring these things together in a set of Values that are short both in number and in length (we suggest between 3 and 5 Values as a rule of thumb – each no more than just a few words)
- Test these Values by asking whether or not they resonate with your people – they must!
- Revisit your Vision Statement – are your Values consist with your strategic Vision? Will they take you closer to making it a reality?
- Don’t stop there – write down on a piece of paper why each Value is important and tangibly what you will do to live it as an organisation
To conclude, creating organisational Values should be easy: it should come out naturally. If you’re finding the process hard, it probably means you need to spend a bit more time getting to you know your people, or even yourself! You can download the series that this article belongs to ‘Strategic Planning 101’ as a free eBook here:
As always, let us know what you think about our process – do you agree with our key points around creating organisational values? What Values have been most powerful and memorable from organisations you’ve worked with previously?