“Vision is a clearly articulated, results-oriented picture of a future you intend to create. It is a dream with direction.” In short, vision is a combination of three basic elements: 1) a significant purpose, reason for existence, 2) a clear picture of the future, and 3) the underlying core values.
In my last two posts, I discussed the elements of purpose and picture of the future. This post focuses on the third element – values.
Our values are our deeply held beliefs about what is right and good, evoking standards that we care deeply about. They drive our behaviors and decisions, trigger our emotions, and can fuel a passion that drives commitment, even in the face of obstacles and change.
An engaging vision, one that captures our hearts, does so because it clearly resonates with our core values. When a group of people discover they share the same values, there is a significant increase in energy, commitment and trust.
Values must support purpose.
The core values of BMW – outstanding engineering, quality and reliability – make sense because the mission of BMW is to provide premium products, premium services, and premium experiences for individual mobility.
Disney theme parks and cruise lines need a different set of core values to effectively fulfill its purpose—safety, courtesy, entertainment (“The Show”), and efficiency.
Since the purpose of CNN is to provide live news coverage as it unfolds, the need values of being fast, accurate, and responsive to news-needs of the public.
Because BMW caters to a select clientele, being responsive to the needs of the general public would make no sense for them. Safety might be important for CNN, but it is not a core value because reporters need to take risks at times to get to the news. I expect my accounting firm to value accuracy, not “The Show.”
An organization’s culture is shaped by its values and expressed through actions.
High performance organizations embed their values through their formal and informal practices, policies and procedures. For example, in support of their value The Show, people who work at Disney are called “Cast Members,” (rather than employees), no matter what their role. Their values are central in new employee orientation, leadership training, and reward systems.
Unfortunately, too often organizations articulate values they aspire to but which are not being lived. Values are embedded in the fabric of the organization, and the real values can be easily identified though observation. (See Five Easy Ways To Tell If An Organization Is Really Values-Driven).
Values are usually timeless and unchanging, but not always.
The founding values may have gradually morphed over the years and now be out of sync with purpose and direction. Or perhaps there have been changes in external forces that require a significant culture change (e.g. changes in the environment, technology or legislation).
Implementation of a new strategy will fail if it is at odds with the culture because, as Jon Katzenbach says, “Culture trumps strategy every time.” In these situations, the culture and underlying values must be actively addressed.
Sometimes it is possible to help employees embrace a significant shift by demonstrating there is a connection to a core value. This is what Sony did when attempting to shift from being a product-driven manufacturer to a customer-centric entity centered around broadband entertainment. Their message was that the new Sony was still “driven by the venture spirit of Sony’s founding days.”
However, many formerly monopoly-based utility companies have had to reinvent themselves in order to become competitive, requiring fundamental changes. New values need to be instilled. This was the situation Southern New England Telephone Company faced in 1994 when Connecticut deregulated the local market.
Ask first, “What are our values?” Then ask, “Do our values enable us to fulfill our purpose and our potential?”
Start by surfacing your organizational values. What do the behavior and decisions tell you about the core values?
But don’t stop there.
It is a mistake to surface your organizational values outside of the context of your organization’s purpose because you might confirm the wrong values.
It is a mistake to not revisit your values when engaging in long-range planning or preparing for a major change because you might perpetuate the wrong values.
Most likely, the fundamentals have not changed. When properly conceived, your vision (purpose, values and picture) will continue to guide you into the future. But don’t take it for granted. Keep revisiting it, keep questioning it, and keep it in mind when setting strategy, identifying goals, and determining practices, policies and structure.