Patrick Lencioni’s 2002 article entitled “Make your values mean something”, it begins with a statement of the following corporate values: communication, respect, integrity, and excellence. These are the meaningless values stated in Enron’s 2000 annual report.
Most value statements, according to Lencioni, create cynical employees, alienate customers and undermine management’s credibility. To develop a meaningful set of values he recommends organising values into four categories (see picture).
Many organisations confuse aspirational values with core values. Values do not become core values by placing them in a corporate values statement.
Values need to be authentic. Default and expected values statements such as integrity, teamwork, ethics, quality, customer satisfaction and innovation don’t set an organization apart from competitors.
Lencioni argues that values initiatives should not be developed by building a consensus. Instead values initiatives should impose a set of fundamental, strategically sound beliefs on a broad group of people. The best values are developed by a small group including any founders, the CEO or Managing Director, and a handful of key employees. This process should not be rushed.
After an authentic set of core values are established, they need to be integrated into every employee related process (e.g., hiring, performance measurements, criteria for promotions and rewards, and dismissal policies) constantly reminding employees that core values form the basis for every decision the organization makes. Core values should be embedded into the system and continuously promoted and reinforced.
Get started now; get perfect later
I will be honest with you. It’s really difficult to get right! We have shared values, which I will share with you shortly. I’m not sure they all meet with Leniconi’s principals. We’ve had them for twelve months. We will review them again in a few more months and we will probably make changes. So, although you could spend years perfecting your Core Values, it may be advisable, in the first year or so, to at least get some agreed Values down on paper with your team and get perfect later. Don’t let procrastination get the better of you. Sometimes, good is good enough!