Core values. These are words you usually see printed on nice boards hanging in the lobby or meeting rooms of companies and organisations. Often these core values are developed by a team of consultants and senior management. Then presented to the rest of the employees and expected to be embraced and lived by for a period of time. Most of the times these values are generic enough that you can identify yourself somewhat with them, which have them kinda make sense.
A couple of years ago I was part of a mayor reorganisation & transition within the organisation I work for. Before the organisation did not really have specific core values. Let alone nice boards or billboards showing these to all the employees. There was, however, a strong sense of certain values that lived within the team. But it was never really researched and expressed as such.
About 4 years into the change we received 5 core values, which were developed by management and presented to us. Even though some of them did resonate with all of us, about half did not. Being an ever more agile organisation (engaging the field more in decision making) it was recognised that these core values needed to be reviewed and have more input and participation by all employees. Being responsible for one of the larger business units, this part of the change management was also bestowed on me. It was then that I found a book on my shelf which I have owned for some years already but never got round to read. It was as if the book and I met again at the right time at the right place. So I started reading Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan and John King. Their book discusses in depth the phenomena of how values of individuals can be identified and aligned with those of the organisations they work at.
The ideal situation is that the core value identification process includes everyone in an organisation and that they are kept to a minimum. the more values you have the more vague they become and difficult for people to feel strongly connected with all of them. Not every organisation has that luxury and it is then up to managers across the board to try to make it work. During a conversation with a mentor, I was advised that it is ok and sometimes even necessary to create your own workable version of the official organisational chart. You don’t have to be a rebel, but it needs to be a pragmatic approach within the boundaries that are acceptable. That advise stuck with me and I applied this to the core value exercise as well.
After a while, we got round to reducing and re-phrasing the 5 existing values to 4 core values, of which pretty much the whole organisation feels strong about. These values are very helpful in reminding us why we do what we do, where we are headed and how we can resolve problems and challenges.
The take away here is to involve everyone in the organisation when identifying and determining core values. Find out what techniques are available for this, and apply what works best for you. Values that are carried by everyone are very strong and set a sound foundation for operation and moving towards the future.
If you are interested in the book, here is a link: