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Core Values

Core Values; Does every organisation have them?

One would like to think so, but certainly, not all organisations specifically articulate their core values. Some will say that you will find them in their vision and/or mission statements, but I prefer the separate document approach for two reasons:

  1. it provides the perfect opportunity for the organisation’s governing board to determine and declare their critical core, nonnegotiable principles, and
  2. it allows every stakeholder to focus on and consider them.

In today’s post-modernist world of contemporary relativism, an organisation’s core values determine both its policies and practices. This further substantiates the argument for their declaration. I believe that your organisation’s Core Values should be considered as a governance matter, which The P9 Management Model promotes as one (Protection) of its three core elements.

Core values do not only reflect the morality of an organisation, they amplify that which differentiators them from their competitors.

I’m surprised that core values rarely get a mention in the first five minutes of conversations I have with new clients. These are the values that drive them, that steer them through challenging times, values that determine their directions, values that set firm their operational boundaries and underpin their reputations; so why are they not top of mind topics?

Whether as a facilitator or contributing participant, I always appreciate the opportunity to be involved in the formation process of an organisation’s determined core values.

Like many critical areas of management, this does not need to be a complex task but you would be surprised at how often I discover that the stated core values of an organisation were simply copied from another entity. This is not only an unnecessary violation of copyright, it’s blatant plagiarism. At the core of core values lies their ownership! If you don’t own them, you won’t value them and you certainly will not live by them.

When developing your core values a great place to start is to create a top-ten list. This usually begins with a brainstorming session that stretches the imagination and then progresses to a focused debate of prioritisation, based on importance and relevance. It’s amazing how often that getting to ten is a struggle, yet then listing many more with little impediment. A key factor here is to consider grouping them under logical titles.

Beyond the formation, action is the evaluation process which is equally valuable to the longevity and real-world application of the stated values. Evaluation of core values is too important to be rushed or trivialised; just like a good red wine, it has got to look right, smell right and taste right.

Again, time prevents me from fully explaining effective techniques, but a good barometer here is to test each value with the following:

  • Is it an absolute?
    • A non-negotiable?
    • Even if your organisation’s ultimate survival depended on breaking it?
  • Will it be reflected in the experience of all stakeholders?
  • Do you consider it a corporate symbol?
  • Is it ‘pass-on-able’ (I know there isn’t, but there should be), transferable and teachable to all staff?

The above applies to reviewing established core values as much as it does to evaluating those that you have just formed for the first time.

Another crucial area of core value management is developing an altered value policy and its implementation practices across an organisation. This is a key component of employee engagement that I observe is regularly overlooked, misunderstood or undervalued.

Finally, I am fully aware of the sometimes passionately held alternate view that you shouldn’t publish your core values. I don’t come across it every day but some firmly believe such declarations can be detrimental on various fronts including H.R. management and potential external litigation issues. I understand these views and consider them both relevant and credible. However, it is my experience that those organisations that are prepared to do the hard yards, and make their considered and prized values public, reap the numerous benefits that accompany such a decision.

I hope you got something useful from this blog.

Question: Do you have a Core Values story? If so, please share it with us.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Alternatively, I always appreciate constructive comments on Core Values.

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