A FastCompany magazine editorial a few years ago defined it’s forward thinking management demographic as those who “value values“. I admired the way they conveyed a profound thought in two words. Under the very slowly tightening noose of information transparency, companies will eventually be compelled to say what they mean and mean what they say – though it will take another few decades to make the transition. Customers will increasingly take account of internal beliefs and mindsets when deciding who they prefer to do business with. 20th century macho management disdain for the ‘fluffy stuff’ of values will gradually ebb away.
This recession will help us take a step forward. It has caused us to pause for thought. The unfettered and widely extended ‘greed is good’ Wall Street mentality is being gently questioned. A recent cohort of Harvard MBAs took it upon themselves to swear a new business oath of responsible value creation. Yet we have seen outbreaks of business humility before and they seldom last. It seems most likely 90% of the ‘old normal’ behaviours will eventually return. Ten steps forward, nine steps back.
For those who want to take a net step forward on this cycle, now would be a very good time to think hard about corporate values. What are your real (deep seated, unstated) values? Are they right for the coming era of information transparency, globalisation and online participation meritocracy? Should you ‘out’ what you really have, debate and revise it?
I have been impressed by the apparent results of IBM’s values exercise this decade. It does seem to have made a difference to their coherence, common purpose and the business outcomes. ‘Innovation that matters for our company and the World‘ may seem trite to some people and yet its like a powerful DNA pattern for replicating culture – allowing each person and team to make the own, inspired, local interpretation.
Let me put it to you another way. Don’t you wish you worked for a company like the one I visited recently that actually believes THIS and displays it in the foyer:
Now – if you are part of a leadership team – isn’t it your right and responsibility to take your company on a journey towards something equally motivating?
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