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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What Value in Values?

The StarWEST presentation on Aligning Corporate values and Test Strategies brought out some thinking in my mind about values - particularly personal values and how they fit into every day life - and in the work place.

'Society as a whole has lost its focus' – it’s a statement in a lot of MBAs and a lot of articles in places like the Harvard Business Review. They postulate that for a lot of people – particularly in the west - there is no Church to centralise their morals, values or community. Nor does the state provide this function. In fact after school age there is very little out there except the company/corporation in which we work.

Now this poses a bit of a paradox. Corporations by their nature are set up to deliver shareholder value – not necessarily value to the employees so in effect what we do (and the dollar value of that) is more important to how we do it. But if these organisations are the last bastion of social integrity then surely the how, the moral, the ethical should be much more joined up than this? When considering this idea for each CEO the question will always be ‘what value are values?’ and for each of us the question is 'How do my values fit into every day?'

A first level summary is that effective team working is contingent on shared goals, and a key part of this being an alignment of values around those goals. Sharing positive values such as truth, trust and integrity will bring with it more open dialogue and effective communications. It will also open up the team to innovate and change – hopefully for the better – and create a more evolutionary organisation.

At a higher level it is important to recognise that we are spending an increasing amount of time at work, making sacrifices and decreasing time in other parts of our lives as a result. The time spent at work should therefore be something that we want to do, not just have to do, as well as enjoy. This isn’t going to happen everywhere, and it isn’t going to always happen as a direct function of the organisation. There is a lot we can do as individuals to make it real and make it work for us.

Now there are some people out there who would question a lot of this, and talk about corporate brain washing and the effect a 'McDonalds like mantra' can have on individuals. I feel that those people have a valid point, but have missed the essence of what I am trying to convey.

For me the value of values comes from embracing the positive side of your own values and finding an organisation that shares them. Then by proactively adopting those values each day within the organisation and encouraging others do so as well we create an environment that we are all part of, want to be in, enjoy and get something out of. We will be more effective as a unit, more passionate about our work and know that each day we are contributing positive energy to the achievement of goals. This means we are making the organisation work for us, not the other way around. There is no need for a McDonalds like Mantra unless it fits to your own values and goals to have one.

The longevity of organisations both large and small is dependent on this being understood throughout the cultural programmes and by everyone in their own way making conscious decisions about how they take their values to work.

I understand Edward de Bono has done some work in this area and am off to look for his book. If you have any really interesting stuff that would be useful in my research please let me know.

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