Values, and values alignment across the organization, drive organizational performance and promote growth.
Organizational values reveal themselves in two ways: 1) from/in organizational strategy development (the planning process to set goals and vision– the ideal future state you are working towards) and, 2) through organizational norms that reveal themselves based on behavior (good or bad) in lieu of, or in addition to established and known values, as set in #1.
Values, (also referenced as guiding principles) are one of the three key strategic visionary elements that establish a business philosophy and set the framework for accomplishing work. (The other two are: Vision – “Where are we going? Our ideal scene?”; and, Mission or Purpose—“What we do, why we exist.”) Generally Executives (the leadership team), set the framework, and staff execute it. If the values are not known, poorly understood or not supported (i.e. given lip service), the benefits of the values run amuck. And, as in the case of #2, if values are not identified and shared, they will be made up and driven by the strongest personalities (both positive and negative), often creating dissonance or worse, a negative culture. As long as this is either tolerated or supported (through inattention), organizational progress will be limited.
The benefits of values alignment are both tangible and intangible. For example, we see 3 common and potent areas of benefits:
- Increased quality, productivity, efficiency, and/or effectiveness – tangible items like product quality, timing, satisfaction; which are surfaced through values like “excellence”, the “gold standard” or “market leaders” in services and products
- Greater morale and cooperation, which are intangibles are derivative from the values like “respect”, “teamwork”, “trust”, “care”, etc., that all work to ultimately promote better performance
- Increased employee engagement is tangible and observed in a person’s direct work output and activities, and reflective of values like “accountability”, “growth”, “individual contribution”, “ownership”, etc. This also crosses into the intangible of positive employee experience at work and is an enabler for morale.
Conversely, a lack of awareness and alignment of the organizational values will result in employee dis-engagement, competition verses cooperation, more insular work and territoriality verses resource sharing, a decrease in morale and ultimately a decrease in productivity—all costly and things that can be avoided. Simply stated, lack of values and organizational alignment can diminish performance and impedes growth. And often the executive team has no idea why the organization isn’t more successful, and argues – it can’t possibly be this values fluff.
Organizational values are a foundational element of high performing organizations. They establish what is most important to get work done in an organization. It also serves as a guide to decision making by enabling staff to assess fit and priority of business activities and opportunities, which in turn results in the performance organizational leaders are seeking.