Before you embark on any strategic planning process it’s critical to identify, document and operationalise your values.
In summary, the values will:
- Enable you to make the ‘right decisions’ easier;
- Provide company-wide clarity on expectations;
- Form the basis of talent acquisition;
- Bring your team closer together;
- Attract the right customers;
- Fulfill you as a business owner or leader.
Why take organisational values seriously
Why are values important in the success of any business? If you have people in your business and interact with customers, then there is no getting away from the fact that values need to be taken seriously.
Long gone are the days where we can post arbitrary statements on a poster and hope the ’employees’ follow them. Values are a function of humanity, and therefore you need to make them a cornerstone of any strategic planning you do for your business.
The importance of values in business is seen in your team’s behaviours, both good and bad. A set of values will provide a guiding framework for what is acceptable and what is not in all aspects of your business.
A member once asked Brené Brown of her lecture if we should have personal values and business values. She said quite simply no. Our values are our values.
Leaders should develop organisational values that align with the long term strategy of the business. Why? It ensures that every decision is made for the good of the company and of its people. A reputation for a robust set of organisational values will attract talent that aligns with those values.
In 2018 PWC’s Workforce of the Future survey found 88% of millennials want to work for a company whose values reflect their own. Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
What is equally crucial about organisational values is to see them in daily operation. Many organisations fall short, in the implementation of their values strategy.
Spend time understanding what your organisational values are
In smaller businesses; the values often reflect the leadership. Still, as you grow, they may evolve to align with the collective vision of the organisation.
Walt Disney was a visionary in many aspects of animation and theme park design, pre-empting many of today’s ground breaking technologies.
His passion for imagination and pushing boundaries attracted Disney’s talent, but when he died, there was a sense of loss, they didn’t know what the future would look like. A small group within the organisation took up the mantel, for a while his memory lived on in their actions.
But as Disney grew other ‘visionaries’ came in and their influence took hold differently, their behaviours inhibited the values system that Disney himself had nurtured for 30 years.
When the tides turned, and Disney got into trouble, they decided to bring in a new CEO and a return to the Disney ecosystem’s original vision. He gave back the energy and vision to those that were inspired by Walt in the early days, and they got the rapidly growing Disney empire back on track.
The moral of the story is that as a leader, you must understand what drives your business’s success and what will guard against mis-action.
If your values are as basic as integrity, honesty and trust, you might struggle to inspire.
Your values are what get you out of bed in the morning, guide your decisions in the best and the worst of times and like Disney, leave an imprint on the way things should be even when you are long gone. It doesn’t mean that values don’t evolve and change, but they are required to be enduring enough to have a real impact on everyone involved in your business.
Define how your values fit in your strategic planning
Like values, strategic planning is the agreement of a series of actions and behaviours that enable your business to function day to day but with a long term vision in mind.
Lightweight values will not appear in many strategic plans as they are not important enough to add value to the bottom line. It is, in fact, the opposite. Embedding your values into your strategic planning is critical.
They are the set of rules that will guide the plan and ensure the integrity of your delivery.
Here are a few simple ways that they will positively impact the success of your strategic planning:
- They provide clarity on your expectations of behaviour;
- They will influence the types of strategies you use;
- When growing your resource, they will enable you to identify those that best align with your company and increase the chances of a successful relationship;
- When times are not going well, they can be the anchor that keeps you on course;
- They set a tone for the way your management and employees treat each other and provide clear accountability;
- They will help you create customer delight and by virtue, increase revenue and profitability.
Set out transparent processes and goals that help you measure the values in action by all of the people involved in your business to know if you are on track.
How do you operationalise your values?
Firstly keep it clear and straightforward. You should have no more than three to four values that you can anchor your whole business on. Your entire team should be able to articulate them and why they are in place, but more importantly, they should be able to see them displayed in their action and the actions of their colleagues every day.
- Bring them to life – huddles, team meetings, wall graphics, company uniform, emails – they are no good in a drawer.
- Outline a series of behaviours that guide the realisation of a value – don’t leave them open for interpretation.
- Track them – through one on ones, customer feedback or rewards. Celebrate the living of your values daily.
- Make decisions routed in your values – if you have to decide and are not sure if it is right, trackback to your values and validate your decision against them. This creates a clear path of accountability and authenticity.
- Enforce values – when you see actions that don’t align with your values, deal with the behaviour immediately. Educate on expectations and understand why those values haven’t been met.
- Review them regularly – especially when you are growing. As your team diversifies and your business changes, your values will evolve, this is not a set and forget activity.
The future of business is becoming less transactional and more purposeful, and if you want to attract the best talent and customers, you cannot underestimate the importance of values.
Be brave and lead your business where others won’t, a company that can have a positive impact on all that it touches, it’s people, the planet and your profits.
Values don’t require you to reduce profits; it enables you to choose how you generate them in the first place.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy E. Disney