Tonnes of research have been done and it has been proved beyond doubt that an organization has its own life, identity and personality. It values a few things dear and they define its identity. Who sets these? Do the owner(s) define the values or a group of people along with the owner(s) define these? What is the right way?
There are experts who help organizations define their identity and sculpt their values. These get defined at various stages of the company and if lived consistently, one creates a strong culture at work that boosts its brand for all stakeholders.
Details matter : Living life each day!
It is common sense that the core group of people who creates an organization define its identity and make choices based on what they combinedly or individually believe in. It is rare that the co-owners or the core group have exactly the same belief system and use the same benchmarks to define their belief. Let’s take an example of a value that we commonly see inscribed in the annals of history of an organization : Respect. There isn’t anyone who will dispute this as a value; neither anyone will find this unpalatable. The devil is in details; in this case, it is the way one lives this value in various situations such as an under-performing employee, a seemingly confused or dumb customer accusing the company of poor performance, a shareholder activist with an apparent mental imbalance.
Matters get further complicated when you have the other values such as Rational and Performance-driven. While an underperforming employee has to be dealt with respect and compassion, the value of being performance-driven will call for exemplary penalty for under-performance. Often, the situations we encounter have multiple dimensions that contradict one another. Hence, it is important that the craftsmen discuss what they believe in, how they are going to live by those beliefs and how they will balance the contradictions.
Define them. Clarity helps.
It is not easy to define them upfront. However, it serves the organization exceptionally well to define the rules of game. The people in the company must understand what is the desired behaviour and what is not. They can use the template to decide their day-to-day actions rather than waiting for their managers to decide.
Most mistakes can be rectified but the culture of procrastination and long cycle time cannot be undone quickly. Moreover, they cost the organization heavily. So, the brass tacks are to work hard and define what is a good behaviour and what is not. The bad apple should be easily identified and isolated!
It is not a one-time exercise. Standing out in the crowd requires consistent effort.
Often organizations hold costly off-sites to evolve the common values and enshrine them suitably on the websites, the walls of the office, emails, cascade sessions and some times in the public domain. Once the exercise gets done, it tends to lose its gloss unless they are experienced by the larger organization every now and then. For example, if we said professionalism is a value and the right behaviour to demonstrate is to operate from a body of knowledge, each day an employee must experience focus on learning, reference to published literature, attempts to generate new insights, gather knowledge and share them. And such experiences must be consistent over time so that all stakeholders of a business relate to those and the organization stands out in the marketplace.
Thus, as a first step, one can decide how many people need to be involved in defining the values of the organization. However, the values get crafted each day as the leaders in the organization live them, walk the talk and the way the entire organization emulates those. The moment of truth is when a stakeholder comes in contact with the firm and forms an opinion!