Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I find it intriguing to think about organizational values and how they impact the character of an organization. We all respect and admire organizations that genuinely understand the importance of values in the organizational context and do genuinely everything that it takes to introspect, establish, inspire and inculcate the values in its employees and other stakeholders. It is easier said than done, though.

-There are organizations that may not even believe in sporting any values – they’d rather spend the time making more money.

-In some organizations that spend time on articulating its values, the consistent pressure on business managers to get more business and deliver on their commitments results in recruitment practices that might put the (I exaggerate) police to shame. As long as the technical requirements are met, even a snake will do. This means you’re looking at an organization where the passion for the organization’s values does not percolate down to even the second layer from the top.

-In some organizations, there may be a frustrating two-sided game being played. On the one side, people wax eloquent about values and on the other, they whisper the opposite into na├»ve and confused ears and act it out that way too. These actions, though, it must be pointed out to such people’s credit, removes at least the confusion. But even amongst these, there may be atrocious people who claim to stick to the values even as they do exactly the opposite. Such hypocrites, I presume, would imagine that the others are foolish and unfit to live in this world.

- In some rare cases, organizations perhaps choose values that are not inspiring and appropriate enough for the business that they are in. Example: A health organization cannot – at it least in my perception - have a value that revolves around value for money. A transport organization that leaves out safety from its list of values is missing something very important. So forth.

- In those organizations that genuinely believe in values and will do anything but violate them, there seems to be a huge practical challenge in recruiting people who have similar values, who are equally serious and uncompromising about them, and who will inspire everyone around them too. My heart bleeds for such organizations. Is curtailing the organizations’ growth the only way in which they can retain the value of their values?

Here are some initial thoughts I have…..just thinking aloud. Would love to hear your views.

- Right at the time of identifying and framing the values, it is important to choose ones that are intuitive and highly relevant to the situation and the context that the organization is operating in

- It is important to involve the employees in every step in whatever way possible

- It is essential to make these values public. Not just circulate it within the organization but also to the world at large. Let employees understand the seriousness and significance of these values. Let even the layman question the employee about his company’s values. This way the accountability goes up. With increasing transparency and accountability comes improvements in behaviour.

- It has to be clearly shown by the senior managers of the company in every step they take and in every move they make. If necessary, the managers have to think aloud – be transparent about how they consider the organizational values, how they evaluate their decision and weigh it against the values and how they arrive at the final decision based on such thinking styles. Meetings will have to dwell upon it, the quarterly results will have to dwell upon it, the company reports will have to talk about it…etc

- Employees have to be encouraged to tell stories about how they used value-based thinking in day to day incidents as well as unique and unexpected situations. Such stories have to be spread and the employees roped in for values dissemination. The lines between hierarchies have to be eliminated altogether when it comes to any value-based exercise/initiative. It has to flow upwards, downwards, sideways, across et al.

As a fellow blogger was pointing out (I’ve lost the link but will try and locate it again : ), a virtue not tested is no virtue at all.

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