Leadership and the role of aligning organisational and personal values

Defining and agreeing on ‘values’ in strategic planning and subsequent behaviours in daily routines.

Competeing Values Framework

Two recent events in working with clients have been an interesting reminder of the need for defining and agreeing on organisational values in strategic planning and subsequent behaviours in daily routines. 

Both businesses are in engineering, with similar sizes of staff levels. Both were overhauling and re-writing strategic plans.

Company ‘A’ was writing the plan because, amongst other things, of an imminent customer – and industry approval – audits. On a different tack, company ‘B’s reason was it wanted to set the ‘True North’ direction of the business for the next three years – and beyond.

A key point here is that values are both current ‘the way we act do now’ and future, or espoused values and ‘the way we will act in the future’. Or the collective behaviours in pursuit of the strategic goals.

The process and outcome of the respective ‘Values Alignment’ for company ‘A’ and ‘B’ could not have been further apart…

A starting point? The task of defining and categorising and assessing values individual

There are a number of formal, structured and established methods by which values may be classified. Individual values may be examined through behavioural preferences such as formal, structured DiSC, the Hogan Values Assessments or the Schwartz Value Model

For example see:

Another way is just talking to people and listen to the language they use.   Some common-sense decoding of the words and phrases will provide significant insights into their values or their ‘currency’ and what drives them!

Organisational values – and cultural behaviours

Naturally the individual and then collective behaviours form the culture or ‘the way we do things around here’ or the unwritten code of conduct!

When assessing the organisational values there are a number of models. The Cameron and Quinn ‘Competing Values Framework’ is well known.

Again see:

As the name of the Cameron and Quinn models suggests it also highlights the different and, potentially, conflicting values (and therefore dilemmas and tensions) that may exist in an organisation. 


Figure 1: COMPETING VALUES FRAMEWORK: Source and acknowledgement

Tying in organisational and individual values?

Organisational teams or departments figure out their collective behaviours. Some staff may leave, new people join – but the prevailing behaviours remain.  And so the meshing of new individuals and existing group values takes place.

So naturally imposing  the senior management group’s   ‘values’ on these teams –  with their established and accepted cultures, values and behaviours –  usually ends up as a set of meaningless words that employees promptly ignore!

The work of Ken Hultman (Motivational Mapping System ™ and Balancing Individual and Organisational Values, 2002, Josey-Bass Pfeiffer) illustrates the iterative approach that may be taken in reaching

Figure 2: source and acknowledgement – Ken Hultman Motivational System Mapping

Leadership: forging agreed values?

The senior management team at company ‘A’ devised a set of values for the strategic plan. These values were ‘rolled out’ at team meetings for discussion (and anticipated agreement by the teams).

The outcome was predictable:  for a peaceful existence the teams simply agreed to these values. And then went about their working activities in the way they had always done.

In contrast company ‘B’ spent time and care in working, through structure, mini-workshops, with individuals and teams in identifying and agreeing a believable and realistic values.  All staff worked on these collective values – from the directors to operational teams. The latter groups, in particular, were impressed with the care and energy that the senior team had put into the process – and so recognised the importance of getting this right

After three months the agreed, collective values were defined as:

Integrity – We do the right things at all time – for our customers and ourselves.

Reliability, Accountability and Responsibility– We do it when we say we will, and the way it should be done.

Pride and Respect – A sense of satisfaction in our way of life at (company name) respect all our colleagues and work as well as respect for each our clients, and the communities and environment in which we work in.

Working Safely – Always making sure that everyone goes home safe to their families at the end of each day.

One year into the three year plan the progress of strategic and operational results indicate the values are still sound and accepted.  Directors attend the regular operational team meetings. This is part of the ‘new way of working’ for communications and the opportunity to test if the new behaviours and change everyday actions are still valid.  So far the answer is ‘yes’!

End Comment

As a colleague – Rebbeca Bradley   (http://linkedin.com/in/rebecca-bradley-fcipd-ma) – notes: ‘Spending  time in defining and agreeing values is an investment. Without grounded, authentic, credible and therefore adopted values there is rarely a smooth path to success’.

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