Cultures Crash and Burn When an Organization’s Value Statement Isn’t Supported by Beliefs, Drivers

Do what you say you are going to do, be who you say you want to be and never stop communicating your vision.

CEO Series: Hank Orme

Today, most companies have some sort of Value Statement: A unified declaration that spotlights what an organization wants to be in the long term. A value statement is an imperative element of strategic planning, and fits into our Big Three under Organizational Foundation.

The Value Statement is significant in establishing a vibrant and solid organizational foundation. It is often displayed on a wall at corporate headquarters, or touted in the company’s internal and public communications. The question is: how squarely does the Value Statement align with day-to-day life within that organization? Does it drive decisions and motivate colleagues? Do employees even recognize the company the Value Statement describes?

In some cases Value Statements are very well understood by all employees. Usually, this is because the statement is easy to understand, the leadership lives it, and the organization places a high priority on communicating what it stands for consistently and effectively.

On the other hand, there are companies that do not talk about their Value Statement and do not live it in the organization’s daily routines. Maybe they bring it out once a year as a page in the annual report, or drop it in the company’s press release boilerplate. In our experience, these companies will never be able to operate at their optimal level.

Sadly, most of us are familiar with the work environment that is created when an organization touts a set of values it doesn’t practice. The obvious conflict between the company’s words and deeds breeds cynicism, disconnect and mistrust of leadership among employees. Over time, the contradictions pile up and actually erode the organizational foundation on which the company is built.

Here’s the good news for leadership in this unenviable situation: 1) there is a solution to your problem. 2) The fix is simple: do what you say you are going to do, be who you say you want to be and never stop communicating that vision.

To bring a Vision Statement to life, to make it a part of the fabric that is corporate culture, I have always used Beliefs and Drivers. Beliefs are public acknowledgement of the organization’s culture. Drivers are strategic guides for business decision making.

Through my time at Lincoln Industries, I was fortunate to inherit a set of Beliefs and Drivers created 20 years prior. Marc LeBaron, the owner, and a team of Lincoln Industries people developed them to capture what the company stood for and how the business would be conducted.  They are brilliant, understandable and powerful.

Beliefs and Drivers company values statementsBringing these Values to life was an ongoing process the owner and senior leaders never wavered from.  These Values were talked about at every meeting with customers, suppliers and key internal company meetings. They were at the very core of the Strategic Planning process.

During the two yearly all-company meetings, the first thing on the agenda was a recap of the Beliefs and Drivers. To assure leaders were appropriately following them, individual opinion surveys asked an employee to rate their leader/manager on her or his adherence to each Belief and Driver. If the scores were high it was a medal of honor with recognition for the supervisor.  However, if the scores were low we followed up with focus group meetings to understand in greater detail why they were low. Action plans were then put in place to improve and correct shortcomings.

The most critical element of feedback for every leader on the survey was this set of questions. This type of organizational leadership model, where equal weight is given to cultural, operational, and financial metrics sends a clear message.  Values – which are summed up by an organization’s Vision Statement – are at the core of any organization and must be given top priority and attention.

Is your organization performing at its optimal potential? Take a look at your Vision Statement, and do an assessment to see how well it trickles down through the organization each day. Performance pH can help you strengthen your Organizational Foundation and be a company with Vision and Purpose.

Hank Orme of Performance pHHank Orme is a partner at Performance pH, a seasoned CEO and a devoted practitioner of developing well-being cultures. An avid mountain climber, he is half way to his goal of climbing 50 of the world’s 14ers.

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