When I see a corporate value system containing teamwork, openness and innovation, my cynical, uneducated and undomesticated baloney detector system in my mind tells me that this company does not have much of teamwork, openness and innovation. They are using the value system as a shopping list. It’s a bet, but a good one.
However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this since, at the very least, it is an statement of intentions, an aspiration, and possibly a framework for people to be reminded about what is needed. In theory.
But it all depends on how this is been constructed. ‘What we have’ or ‘what we don’t have’ are the wrong questions. The real question is what kind of anchor, True North, value system we must have in order to navigate, whether we have some of this or not. If we are already rich on something crucial, it must stay in the system, or it will fade. If we lack this and that, and we believe they are vital, let’s have them in.
In my work with organizations, this framework is typically a behavioural DNA, a set of non negotiable behaviours that constitute the behavioural fabric of the organization, the one is needed. And in crafting this, some things are already there, some are not, some in between. I usually go ‘below the value system’ for the crafting of the behavioural DNA. Value systems are inevitably high level and have the risk of remaining as such without serious behavioural translation.
Values are a set of nice words on a PowerPoint, or on paper, until they are live. And they can only be live in behavioural terms. That translation is not a back of an envelope affair. Also, it needs a mechanism of engagement of people that can multiply itself and scale up. The Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform provides this, of course.
Off the shelve value and behavioural frames are cheap. They are also a commodity. Who does not want accountability, openness, teamwork and integrity? These mean little until translated to the specifics of the firm.
A useful test if to ask yourself, would ‘your’ set of values also be applicable to your competitor, or neighbour, or your hairdresser.
Conceivably they could overlap or be shared. But, perhaps, if so, you should try harder! Enron had respect, integrity, communication and excellence as value system. And that is exactly what my hairdresser has. And my hairdresser is doing much better.
Only a behavioural DNA allows you to be specific and well translated. And that set of (non negotiable) behaviours will hopefully include some that you already have and some you don’t.