Business, Development, Organisations

What’s the Value of Values?

Rolling out the Values.
4 of them.
Easily understandable & hopefully memorable.
Hopefully memorable because we also need you to remember the Vision.
Oh… and behave by the 12 Competencies, each of which have 5 behaviours under them.

1 Vision
4 Values
12 Competencies X 5 Behaviours
That’s only 77 things….

How hard can it be to live this way at work?
Within 77 little points?

We in HR & L&D will be holding these Values & Behaviours, by the way. We’ll work closely with colleagues in Comms, in Marketing to get ’em out there…. but that’s part of what we do. 77 parts, I guess….we remember them all, of course.

Ah… well… now yes, we also need you to be technically good- (if you have a specialism, there are some other teeny tiny things we also need you to be) but bottom line is, we want you to be technically really good.
And then of course, we kind of need to develop your management/ leadership/ potential skills and competencies… over and above the 77, of course.

But everyone really must live the Values.
Of course they look very similar to others’ Values…. yes, of course every organisation wants to respect their staff and yes, we know there are pockets where this really really doesn’t happen….but these are aspirations – to get us all to live this way in this organisation. Oh. Did I say aspirations? No No…. these are our Values. Who we are and how we operate. Not aspirational at all. Actual. Honestly……..


It strikes me that in L&D, HR & OD, we are tangling ourselves up in definitions.
That what is valued in one part of an organisation may not be valued elsewhere. That sometimes, what is valued over here is slightly toxic and sometimes it is absolute gold.
So how do we, as professionals, work with this complexity? how do we work with what is real in our organisations, without feeling we have to nail it down, sanitise it, name it, chase it, aspire to it?
How can we allow people to flourish on their own terms?
What can we offer/open up/ invent/ push for to allow the good folk, who put their time and brain power into this organisation, to be really genuinely good… or maybe even great?
I don’t have an answer…
I suspect that debunking the Myth of Values to those we work with might help though?
If you Google the word Values & look at the Images… there are massively similar words out there – no organisation openly says: we need pedantic, headstrong, stubborn, hardy, marginally heartless folk, who can also deal with the public working here….but I’m guessing you can think of a couple of occupations or orgs where that would be absolutely what is truly valued?
What would happen if we spent less time chasing the living of generic Values and more time working with what is real and needed in differing parts of our organisations?
When we Roll out the Values, are we rolling ourselves into knots?
I wonder…..

11 thoughts on “What’s the Value of Values?”

  1. Thinking about the complex reality of my (large) organisation, I find it helpful to have “culture” in the frame. Written statements of values are often attempts to influence the unwritten culture, which is also shaped by many other things, and in turn influences behaviours. One way to get past the written lists of 77 things is to explore what people absolutely would *not* do, and why not – perhaps because it would threaten or breach (unwritten, real) norms and values.

    1. On way to get past 77 things.
      Seventy. Seven. Things.
      ..More than a contestant on the Generation Game would have to remember…
      Is, i suggest, not list 77 things about what to do or not to do/ aspire to/ live by…
      I know. Crazy talk.

    1. It’s the volume of the words & how far away they are sometimes from
      What is truly valued…
      Just seems wasteful

  2. Yes! The conversations that take place around values are what matter.

    Turning them into the lists and competencies – the ongoing holy grail of aiming to moderate, control and predict human behaviour….. I wonder where neuroscience is going to take all this – competencies to fire up the synapses? The brain will evolve to resist it!

    1. The brain is, arguably, already fully equipped to resist stuff….
      One way is to deny & ignore what is irrelevant to our lived experience, i suspect….which is why this Values stuff feels shammy.
      As if we are adhering and complying…. But we mostly don’t

  3. Seems like these artifacts / anchors / planning elements are good parts of internal / external mapping strategy. Codifying things like values are necessary to organizing thinking and direction. Attaching competencies is a useful exercise. But the internal exercises of defining what could / should be and the external exercise of actualizing within (and through) the environment seem tangential to me.

    A value, vision element, or even a job competency by itself is has limited value. How each of these things is put into action through an adjustment to development practice, tool accommodation, technique / procedure, and incentives are what matters.

    The exercise of defining these complex structures and thrusting the resultant map on the folks we serve might do more harm than good. To say that values (and competencies, etc) have no value is pretty small minded (totally not what you’re saying here, I suspect.) They have value. But by themselves, this value is very, very small. It’s what we do with these *internal* things (and the questions that they generate) that matters.

    1. Hello Steve, I read this a few times and carefully.. I think I understand what you mean…

      So I’m OK with codifying things if the intention is to simplify and present complex notions in non-complex ways (so info graphics, maps & diagrams etc can be useful).
      What I’m curious about is that we simplify our organisational purpose/ values down to some simple, grasp-able concepts… and then we seem to annihilate that good work with vast quantities of other things, equally codified to be “simple”.

      What was intended, through the blog, was an invitation to step back – look at the numbers, the volume of things we ask of ourselves, of the people in our organisations…. and once we have looked, ask ourselves: does this seem sensible? is it fit for the purpose we intended? is is working as we want it to?

      My intention was not to say that Values have no value, but to ask what value they bring, in a chaotic context… It’s asking important stuff to shout loudly against other important stuff – but if everything is important, then it’s all the same, therefore…. not important… I guess

  4. I’ve thought a lot about this because I really believe that having defined vision and values is important.
    The concept of values guiding behaviour is evident in governing nations and on a personal level, so making use of them in organisations seems to follow. At the same time something in you piece rang true.

    I don’t think the values are a problem so much as the ‘culture’, ie the implementing of values and adoption of behaviours.

    So, for example, if values were shoes…
    Recognising that shoes are ideal for foot protection is a step (sorry) in the right direction. Owning a pair of shoes would be the logical progression. However, the ‘protection’ part doesn’t kick in until you actually wear them.
    And they feel awkward and they’ll need to be worn in – taking them off shouldn’t be an option.
    But then neither should organisations require people to wear restrictive or ugly shoes unnecessarily – we need to work together to make them comfortable, if practical.
    And we should also recognise the value and benefits of allowing people to go barefoot every now and then.

    Maybe there are different pairs of shoes for different occasions…

    I’m milking it…

    But thank you, I found it useful thinking about this.
    I think I feel a blog post coming on… 😉

  5. Hello, HelloJon
    I’m enjoying the shoe analogy – thank you… and please post a link here if you write that blog?
    I”d love to hear more of what you’re mulling on.

  6. I understand your cynicism, but it really doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is getting all parties (employees at all levels, and any other key people such as non-execs and trustees) involved in defining what the values of the organisation are. Once done and agreed, it’s about making sure everything is tested and challenged against those values.
    I’ve just finished working with an organisation where my task was to review and rewrite their HR policies in line with their values. We ended up not only with a set of slimmed down and appropriate policies but ones which will actually mean something to the people who have to work within them. At every step of the way I had to justify “how does this meet or implement our values?” not only to the Chief Exec but also the staff team. Values to that organisation aren’t a nice sounding set of words on their website but something which inform all their business activity.

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