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Monday, December 27, 2010

Organizational Values (4 in a series)

Moving Together In The Right Direction
Our last three blog postings have been about organizational values.  Before I switch to another subject, I think it’s important to make one more point about values.  Organizational values define the “right way” for how things should be done in your workplace.  With any goal, there is the “right way” to do things and the “right results” to achieve.  We have all worked with people who do what they are asked to do, but perform in a manner that ends up being destructive to the organization.  For example, consider the sales person who bad mouths other sales team members with the goal of making all of the sales on his own.  He ends up having a high sales volume, the “right results,” but his methods were not the “right way.”  When only the results are made clear, and values are not well defined, people will use whatever behaviors work for them to achieve the goal.  This can create an unengaged work environment and a bad reputation for your company.

TEAM: Together We Achieve More! 

Behaviorally-based value systems take the "wiggle room" out of interpreting the “right way.” Once organizational values are defined, expected behaviors to display those values are also outlined.  For example, we value collaboration and therefore expect all team members to consider others’ ideas, and to have drafts and finished products reviewed by at least one other team member. These expected behaviors are communicated to all team members.  Team members can use a variety of methods to achieve goals, as long as they stick to behaviors that fall in line with our value of collaboration. 

It’s just as important to build a great reputation for your organization as it is to work towards defined sales or productivity goals.  A solid reputation is built when all employees understand and adhere to expected behaviors that communicate organizational values.  The “right way” must be understood.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Organizational Values (3 in a series on values)

By Jeff Sullivan

Whether or not you choose to create a strategic well communicated set of values, your organization will make decisions and take action on a set of values.  Absent a deliberate plan, these values will grow organically and most likely represent the personal values of the people who can help or hurt you the most.  In larger organizations this can mean that you have competing sets of values that are at odds with one another, creating a serious distraction and wasting valuable resources.  For example, if an employee knows that the CEO values “no mistakes” but her direct supervisor values “creative ideas” she will often find herself in conflict between the “sure bet” way to no mistakes versus taking a risk and trying something new.  Similarly, if the direct supervisor values high profit margins but an employee’s major client values integrity, the two values may at times collide, and the employee will not know the “right thing to do.”  Successful organizations run a single value system imbedded into all of its people practices.  These well communicated and integrated values serve to reduce distractions and conflict and make decision-making easier.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computer, put it well.  “The only thing that works is management by values.  Find people who are competent and really bright, but more importantly, people who care exactly about the same things you care about.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Organizational Values (2 in a series on values)

What exactly are values?  Values are the core set of principles that drive your decisions and behavior.  They are "valuable" in the sense that they are an important compass for us as we cycle through life.  A well understood value system becomes most valuable in ambiguous circumstances--times when you cannot find the answer in a book, the Internet or the law.  I'm talking about situations that compel you to make a judgment call in unfamiliar territory.  When you are experiencing something for the first time, you don’t have past experience to rely on in making a decision.  Values are the guide.  These same issues exist within organizations as well.  Having a deliberate and clear set of organizational values is essential for success in the world we operate in today.

As a manager you have two choices.  You can attempt to write a policy and procedure manual that covers what to do in every possible situation, or you can integrate values into your people practices and rely on employees to make “good” choices based on those values.  The first alternative is all too often tried, but always fails.  Employees can’t memorize volumes of policy and procedure and often end up feeling as if they can’t move without checking the policy manual first.  They can however learn expected behaviors as they relate to clear organizational values.  The most successful organizations have followed this path leading to a values based and well-known organizational culture.
                                                                                              By Jeff Sullivan