Values Checklists

I am in the process of going through a lot of old files and filling up recycle bins. Most of this stuff was collected back in first half of the 1990’s when the world wide web was just gaining critical mass, and a half day on Alta Vista, or the brand new search engine, Google, turned up new stuff all of the time. It disappeared just as fast, so the rule was “if you want it, copy it.”

A lot of this material comes from the TQM community. But what struck me enough to sit down for a minute and write about is checklists that include values like “respect for people,” “openness and honesty” and “teamwork.”

This was an era when companies were creating “values statements” and publishing them.

Many of them followed by trying to measure compliance with those values, putting them in performance management reviews, etc.

Of course since the mid 1990’s we know better. . . don’t we?

Values are tricky things. Certainly if a company is sincerely trying to change its culture, the values are going to have to shift. The question I have is not whether this is true, but whether writing them down and trying to enforce them is an effective way to go about it.

Consider how a company with a long, entrenched culture of conflict avoidance is going to transition itself into one which truly respects people?

In a conflict avoidance culture, the people who are truly open and honest tend to ruffle feathers and find themselves in the “out” crowd, isolated in the eddies, and often are never told why.

The people who have flourished in that culture now are saying they want to change it.

Let’s assume that the handful of people at the top – whose behavior has likely been rewarded by promotion throughout their careers and possibly even molded the rest of the organization, can even see that they have not been respectful of people.

If they truly want to change the values of the organization, the only way I can see for this to happen is if they, personally, are totally open and honest that (1) What they have been doing is holding the company back, and is disrespectful of people; (2) They intend to change it starting today; and (3) Ask for help and support from others around them to make a personal change.

If these things don’e happen, then it really doesn’t matter what they put on the wall or say they want everyone else to do.

This is a tough one. It is what Peter Senge calls “personal mastery” and what Jim Collins talks about in “Level 5 Leadership.”

Honestly, I don’t think it is a hard prerequisite for a fair degree of success. I know a few companies who have done pretty will without ever addressing this issue.

But I also know they are hitting the limits of what they can accomplish. As I am someone who sees things in terms of their potential I just wanted to take a couple of minutes and toss this one out there for everyone to think about while we (in the USA at least) stuff ourselves with turkey.

6 Replies to “Values Checklists”

  1. Great piece.

    I’m constantly struggling with changing my company’s “command and control” mentality to a “team of workers who come up with lean solutions” mentality.

  2. Mark you are dead on.

    In those early years most lean transformations were being driven by a Japanese sensei. To them the lean tools we all spend so much time on where secondary to the human part.

    No company can build a sustainable advantage based just on tools, since anyone can acquire a tool. The only true sustainable advantage you can attain comes from people.

    Why can a Honda or Toyota order a recall and gain an advantage from it, while one of the traditional Big 3 does it and they lose market.

    First Honda and Toyota do it voluntarily as soon as they see a problem. They admit making a mistake and take corrective action. To the consumer it shows the company cares for them. The Big 3 deny making a mistake even after it is totally visible to everyone else.

    When an enterprise focuses on people instead of money or tools, they build a focus on human needs and desires. Focusing on the human needs and desires of your people helps you identify the needs and wants of the consumer.

    Additionally if you have no integrity and respect for the people in your business, how are you and they going deliver them to your customers and the consumer?

    To truly succeed we need to take a few steps back a learn lessons from true industrial leaders. Stop focusing on tools (including capital, money is only a tool to facilitate exchange).

    Take a lesson from an industrialist, a free enterprise loving man, and an anti-capitalist, Andrew Carnegie.

    As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.

    There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.

    No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.

    Our greatest challenge is to learn how to work and deal with people.

  3. for a big organisation it is difficult to change if the leaders are trained in oldways. just if anything was possible, will changing the leadership change the mentality of the organisation.
    Like Tyco scandal, did new leadership change the way the business operates.
    Smaller organisation this change may seem easier. but is it possible to change peoples value or are they some intrinsic qualities everyone is born with.

  4. Great post.

    I think another thing about values is that they actually have to help companies make decisions. A few years a study revealed that 48 percent of the Fortune 500 had the same values of respect and integrity. One company had Respect, Integrity, Excellence, and Communication. That company was Enron.

    The problem is that most people don’t come to work saying they were going to work “out of integrity” but it’s a corporate value so I will work “in integrity.”

    Make principles / values / beliefs that help people make decisions.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh

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