In many small to medium-sized enterprises, managers always lead the organization by relying on a personal decision, and this fact leads to individualism in the organization. But the question is how to involve members of the organization in the decision-making process and lead the organization to its ultimate goals faster and more efficiently?
I thought this article I wrote would be useful for this question:
It has become common practise for organisations to define their values to the modern world, usually as part of their overarching organisational vision and strategy. It is these values which underpin the ethos of an organisation, and the style in which it works. Values can reflect an organisation's view of the world and give a steer to those who work for the organisation on how to behave. All of the organisations I have worked with have had these values very much visibly on display, however not all have lived their values, or have them well defined.
In this article I will explain the importance of values towards underpinning an organisational culture. I will describe how values can be used as principles to test strategy and plans against, and how, when well defined and well articulated, they can be a method of steering an organisational culture in a positive direction. I will use examples from organisations I have worked with in the past, and explain why, although many values can be similar, each organisation needs to consider theirs on an individual basis.
Franklin D Roosevelt said that rules were not necessarily sacred, but principles are. It is these principles which are the values of the modern business. When defined correctly, values allow an organisation to understand how it wishes to operate and allow strategy to form in line with the values, rather than in parallel to it.
There have been some very poor examples of values, take Uber for example. Under a previous CEO, Uber defined its values in a quirky way along lines such as 'always be hustlin' and 'toe-steppin'. These were not real values, and showed a disconnect between the senior leadership and those working in the organisation. The new CEO realised the error and formed steering groups to define the values of the organisation, coming up with the more progressive, 'We do the right thing - period' and 'We value ideas over hierarchy'. However the reality was that these again are only empty words if they aren't followed by the organisational strategy. The actions of the company in not defining its drivers as employees, does not feel like 'the right thing'.
However, values are not some new age idea to say nice things about what the organisation is doing, then to ignore in actions. They are used by many respected institutions to define their purpose. The values of KPMG across 152 countries are well respected and define how they work. The values of the Civil Service define the institution. When done well, values make a huge difference, and lead to better strategy and better outcome.
Anyone who has served with the British Army will be able to tell you what C-DRILS means. Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty and Selfless Commitment. These values underpin every action which the army does, and define how it behaves. Any soldier who has got into trouble, will tell you how he was in front of his Officer Commanding for 'bringing the army into disrepute' or 'failing the values and standards'.
However, there are issues with the way these values are implemented, with many organisations playing a token nod to them, with the annual hour long DVD and some posters on the wall. The best regiments will have deep and meaningful discussions with all ranks, and study days to consider them. Some argue that the values are out of date and not in step with society, curtailing the freedom of the soldiers in a society which has moved on. This argument is defended through the comment of the values setting the army apart from society. However, society in many ways could be argued to be more respectful than the military, with the military having considerable discipline issues reported in the press, and less than ideal attitudes to race, woman and the LGBT+ community.
However, the point of course is that the military is trying to live these values, and the organisation is focused on living them, despite the elements of society which they recruit from not always being aligned. The military also has to follow that final value, which is beyond what others do, that of true selfless commitment. The willingness to sacrifice your life for the greater good. This unlimited liability sets the military apart from other organisations.
The values of the British Judo Association are in line with the principles which were outlined by Jigoro Kano who invented Judo in the late nineteenth century. Kano believe in values and made it clear that Judo was not a sport, but a way of life.
"Since the very beginning, I had been categorizing Judo into three parts, rentai-ho, shobu-ho, and shushin-ho. Rentai-ho refers to Judo as a physical exercise, while shobu-ho is Judo as a martial art. Shushin-ho is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue as well as the study and application of the principles of Judo in our daily lives."
The values of the British Judo Association are in line with the teachings of Kano. Integrity, Respect, Unity, Excellence and Trust. These values embody what is needed as a Judoka and are what I have been learning since the age of five when I started Judo. Respect is learned at a young age, from bowing as you enter the dojo, to the respect for an opponent before and after the fight. Unity of the team and the higher values is encouraged, as well as trust in allowing a partner to test their techniques upon you. Striving for excellence in Judo is not about just the fight, but the whole self, and this value is underpinned in every action of a Judoka.
What is noticeable also is the similarity between the values of the BJA and that of the British Army, having respect and integrity, unity and loyalty have similar connotations. In addition, excellence and discipline are similar in their outlook, as well as trust being linked to the moral and physical courage of allowing your opponent to throw you. The similarities between these two martial organisations are striking.
The values I will now consider are those of St John Ambulance, a healthcare charity which operates in the 'service of humanity'. The organisation is focused on the provision of ambulances, first aid and first aid training, so very different from the previous examples. The values are listed as follows:
Despite the different focus on the organisation the values again are similar, with humanity being similar in nature to respect for others; excellence and discipline are very much the same guise; team work, loyalty and unity are similar; accountability is very much on the lines of integrity. There are some nuances to these words, and they can be interpreted in a different way, but the key components link together throughout the organisations.
So why therefore do we need values at all, if there is a standard set which can be pulled from the shelf when required? Put simply, because an organisation needs to understand and live its values, in the context of how it operates day to day and the context of the outcomes it wants to achieve. The purpose of excellence in St John Ambulance is for a person to be the best they can be in their chosen clinical field. The purpose of excellence in the British Judo Association is to be the best Judoka you can be and embody the values of Judo. The purpose of excellence in the British Army is to be the best and win, beyond all odds and secondary to nothing else, the mission comes first. This selfless commitment in the army is not present in many other organisations. The statement 'nothing in this plan should put the lives of the staff at risk' is written in many healthcare plans, the opposite is true in the army. The mission can often come first and it is excepted that people may die. This unlimited liability is the key difference in these values between the organisations.
The final example is one outside of a standard organisation, the values of a mass membership today, the Chartered Management Institute. These values here are very different, because they define what the organisation believes managers should be and how they should operate. The values of Professional, Progressive, Passionate and Practical are very different from those above, and are focused not on the organisation, but on its members and how they should behave.
This approach to values is very much focused on a specific area, and in one element of development, but works well for this organisation. It certainly rings true in what it is trying to achieved with continuous professional development of its members. It is a very different example and therefore shows the utility in understanding what values mean to your organisation.
The final area to consider is the values of the person beyond that of an organisation. The values of a person are often ill-defined, even when interviewing, but when well-defined can describe how they can add value to an organisation. Values, beyond behaviours or personality, underpin what we would like ourselves to be. A set of values can be a compass which can direct a person through life. I am a member of all those organisations mentioned, but I cannot claim to follow all values equally. I have my own values which I believe guide the way I operate, and these are the ones I would bring to the forefront when describing myself.
My values I would define as: