What are organizational values? Importance. Priority. Weightiness. Time. Money. _________ (fill in the blank).
These are all indicators of value. We place more of the above on those things we value most. If you want to understand what you or your organization values most, consider how much of each chosen indicator is invested in a particular activity, process, or pursuit. People inherently seek to gain something greater as a result of an investment of a limited resource (i.e. Energy, Time, Money, Space, Relational Capital, etc.). This investment is usually aimed at something of greater perceived value than the resource itself. Some values are easy to identify. Some are more deeply embedded and require several cycles of reflection to fully recognize.
For example, your business may state that it places a high value on customer satisfaction. However, it also needs to pay the bills, one of which is payroll. When it comes to the occasional tension between “We need to increase revenue through sales” and “Our sales people keep overpromising what we cannot deliver”, what do you do? If a salesperson exceeds revenue goals, that’s helpful to payroll. If promises cannot be delivered on with consistency, that will undermine long-term customer satisfaction. You now need to clarify organizational values.
Where to begin?
Reflectively evaluate where the resources are allocated. Ironically, it also takes resources to identify and reinforce organizational values. For example: When it comes to customer satisfaction, does your company invest in employee training? Does it provide an appealing and attractive customer arrival experience, signage, waiting area, communication during the entire process, etc.? Does it provide adequate training, resources and authority to those responsible for after-delivery satisfaction issues? Or does company behavior demonstrate a greater value on acquiring the next customer?
So, are organizational values easy to identify? Yes and No.
Some approaches to consider when it comes to identifying your organization’s values include:
1) If you have a set of stated values and behaviors that align with them are affirmed and rewarded, then “Yes”. If other behaviors are rewarded more often, then “No”.
2) Observe how discussions are facilitated and decisions are made in both scheduled and ad hoc meetings of various sized groups. Ask some of these questions:
- What questions are asked?
- What assumptions are obvious? (More on assumptions later this month.)
- What behaviors toward each other are affirmed, corrected, ignored, etc?
- What is the “elephant in the room” and why is it that elephant?
If there is positive energy around the answers to these questions, it is likely the values are clear and embraced. If the energy is negative, it is likely the values have not been clarified and/or agreed to at some level. There may also be an unidentified set of conflicting value systems that need attention (more on that later this month, too).
Identify Your Organization Values with an Organizational Audit
TurningWest’s team of organization development consultants knows how to help you identify, prioritize and clearly articulate your values. It is an energizing process that provides clear results and practical tools for both internal operations and external messaging. If you value clarity and momentum, contact TurningWest – Your Guide to integrated, healthy human work systems – for an organizational audit.