In this article, I describe a five phase process of interaction with values, which creates the potential to infuse these potentially very important concepts into the organizational behavior and climate.
Five Phases of Interaction with Values
In my observation, organizations have a difficult time translating their espoused values to practiced behaviors. If an organization has a values statement (many don't), it often resides in a binder on the bookshelves of upper-echelon employees, or it is some meaningless cheesey slogan; most of the team do not know what the organization's values are, nor are they frequently aware that such a list exists.
To combat this condition, I recommend the five phases of interaction: development, awareness, commitment, embodiment, and conveyance.
1. Develop meaningful values. Leaders and subordinates should consciously contemplate values. This phase involves figuring out what ideals resonate with you, your organization, your culture, your industry, et cetera. The output of this contemplation is the values statement:
"Here are the ideals that matter to us, and that we will aspire to live up to."
2. Create awareness. Once your values statement has been developed, you must make people aware that such a list exists; by communicating it to the organization through a deliberate communications effort.
I recommend redundancy in any communications effort. Here are three ways to create such redundancy:
1) Post your values statement in break rooms and work areas.
2) Conduct periodic training.
3) Discuss these important concepts during the planning, conduct, and assessment of normal operations.
Posted value statements should be of a high quality design and production - demonstrate that they are important through their medium.
Periodic training should be you, the organization's leader, spending fifteen minutes in front of the team, publicly and visibly discussing and declaring that the organization's values are important.
Finally, discussion of organizational values can take many forms at many different interactions throughout the organization each day, but should include: discussion during performance counseling; spot checks to see if junior subordinates have a working knowledge of these ideals; and integration of organizational values considerations during planning, execution, and assessment of operations.
3. Solicit Commitment. Once organizational values are defined and communicated, employees must be asked to commit (or reaffirm commitment) to them. Solicitation for commitment to organizational values is a no-pressure request which occurs in conjunction with the training and discussion during the awareness phase:
"These are our organization's values. I ask you to make a commitment to embody them into your conduct, actions, and performance."
There is an important point here: commitment must be asked for; it cannot be directed. Additionally, I don't want a response when I ask for commitment, nor do I desire the signing of a pledge statement (or anything else like that). I tell my Team Members that they can answer the call (or not) through their conduct, actions, and performance.
"Are you committed to our Values? Don't tell me that you are; instead, show me that you are through your actions."
4. (Practice) Embodiment of Values. Once you obtain buy-in from the organization's members, practice embodying the organizational values will occur (with varying degrees of success). This includes more discussion and interaction. Discussions should occur throughout all phases of the operation, but should especially be emphasized during: 1) planning and problems solving, and 2) during the assessment of completed operations (we call it the after-action review).
5. Convey to Others. Finally, values truly become infused in the organization when senior and mid-level subordinates - in addition to the organizational leadership - begin teaching and talking about them.
Team Members will start to ask themselves and others, "how are our organizational values reflected in our actions today?"
Examples of encouraging answers could include:
- Reporting accurate but poor production numbers (this reflects integrity and honor).
- Staying late to help a coworker (this reflects loyalty and selfless service).
- Serving a customer to the best of your ability (this reflects duty, loyalty, and selfless service).
- Doing your assigned work to the best of your ability (this reflects duty and honor).
In summary, leaders can employ five phases of interaction (development, awareness, commitment, embodiment, and conveyance) to figure out what values really matter to them and their organizations, and then translate those values statements into meaningful behaviors and actions.