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Part of your strategic planning process is to develop (and confirm) your company’s values statements. But after you do that, what’s next? Surely you can do more than paint them on the wall where people will ignore them until they become just part of the wallpaper. As with everything in business, the ideas are helpful, but the real work begins when the time comes for implementation. Mike Richardson argues that values statements should be used 100 times in your business processes in order to ensure their implementation. He explains posting them on the walls of all of the meeting rooms counts as one time. If you put them in all of the job descriptions, that is one more time. Now go find another 98. That advice felt very overwhelming to us. We believe so strongly in developing and reaffirming values, but how do you embed them in your business – particularly when the business has grown beyond the core group that started it? Kick off the program with this relatively simple exercise.
The first step is to decide who you will implement with. These people will be the values disciples who will communicate them to the masses. Your Management Team is an obvious choice, but there are likely other influencers you will want to include. For smaller or more tightly knit companies or teams, you can include everyone.
Explain the purpose of your exercise – that companies with strong values attract the right kind of people, retain happier, more productive staff, and make more money. You want to be one of those companies. Next, list each of your company’s values on the board. Ask each person on the team to provide their impression of how effective the company has been at living that value. Explain the evaluation system: “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being I don’t even know how that got on the list and 5 being I can’t imagine a circumstance where that wouldn’t apply, rate how we’re doing.” Then have them give examples of where that value is being lived in the organization, and where it is not. For instance, if the company’s value is “Fun ” it may be demonstrated in team lunches, practical jokes that are played around the office, or just a general lightness of feeling in most interactions. It is not being exemplified if there is sniping or bickering around the water cooler.
If so, commit to the behaviours you all want to see more of and identify what to stamp out. Develop an action plan for implementation, and monitor against that plan. If they no longer apply (“Well, everyone likes to have fun, but I’m not sure I’d list it as a core value of the company”), it’s time to either change the behaviours or the values statements dramatically. You may find that some of the values you set a long time ago no longer apply. Others may be missing that really should be there. Don’t panic. Values are like glaciers that move slowly over time. If you find yourself changing the company values each year then you haven’t done it properly. But once in a while, companies change.
Implementing values is not an initiative that you set and forget. Like regular oil changes on your car, quarterly or even monthly check-ups on how you are living your values will ensure that things stick. For larger organizations, this regular follow-up will result in a tipping point where the values are so well embedded in a critical mass of employees that those who haven’t embraced the culture will be forced to do so (or leave on their own accord). Have you performed a values review lately? Let us know in the comments or let me know directly: firstname.lastname@example.org