Living Organisational Values - Bridges Business Consultancy

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Published by Emerald Group Publishing, in BUSINESS STRATEGY SERIES VOL.9 No.6 2008
Living Organisational Values: The Bridges Value Inculcation
Robin Speculand and Ruchira Chaudhary
Communication, Respect, Integrity and Excellence. These are four values that could be at
the heart of any organisation. Unfortunately and more often than not, there tends be a
phenomenal gap between identifying Organisational values and actually living them. To
illustrate the point – these were Enron’s core values!
In the recent years articulating Organisational vision, mission and values is considered a
global best practice to achieving business excellence and it is estimated that nearly
seventy percent of the Fortune 500 companies have vision, mission and value in place.
The challenge is to live them and what is missing is a model to inculcate values.
Organisational Vision, Mission and Values
A vision statement outlines what a company wants to be. It focuses on tomorrow - an
inspirational image of the future that an organisation is aiming to achieve.
Mission is the core purpose of the business or the reason to exist.
Core Values are the beliefs or principles that guide organisations helping them reach that
future state.
As examples consider what differentiates Citigroup from HSBC? They both offer
mortgages at competitive rates, they both offer car loans and aggressive foreign
exchange rates.
What differentiates Thai Airways from Air France? They both offer service par excellence
in first class, a wide choice in onboard movies and a delightful a la carte menu for a
diverse set of customers.
One of the key differentiators in the above two examples is the way they do things and
that in turn is driven by their Organisational values.
In their bestselling book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras have detailed out the
dramatic difference in shareholder returns generated by what they termed as “visionary
companies” i.e. organisations like 3M, General Electric and Hewlett- Packard. Their study
revealed that while these organisations had a small number of characteristics in common,
at the very core all these companies had well defined, strong, vibrant and shared values,
beliefs and organisational cultures.
Best Employers across the world share a common characteristic of strong culture and
values. Strong in our context does not simply imply that these companies
prominently display their values on notice boards, conference halls or hang posters in
elevators and corridors. These organisations see their culture as a business
weapon, a source of competitive advantage, what differentiates them from their
This raises the question of what are Organisational Values and why do we need to
articulate them?
Values are often defined by experts as beliefs or guiding principles that are core to the
organisation and help steer the right actions. Simply put, they are a collective set of
behaviours that an organisation feels are important for its success and cannot be
compromised upon.
In the words of Jack Welch : Every GE division can appoint an e-commerce ‘fanatic’ with
the authority to break any of the company’s rules as long as its values are upheld!
Let’s look at a few real life examples to elaborate the point:
If you are expanding into emerging markets and in one of the countries where you are
dealing with the middle man – he is expecting a sweetener to secure the deal, do you
comply? When a customer writes in to complain, do you respond within one business
day? When your colleague is struggling, do you offer assistance? The answer to
these questions and other behaviours in any organisation depend on the how well their
core values are inculcated into their culture.
Mother Teresa exemplified being value driven through the following story.
One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children
in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in
her face and refused. Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit
from her face and said to the baker, "Okay, that was for me. Now what about the
bread for the orphans?” The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she
How you would have reacted in that situation; most of us would have shouted at the
baker or perhaps hit him. To Mother Teresa, feeding the starving children was far more
important than her pride. She believed in her values.
Values dictate what is expected from an individual in any given situation and how they
should behave.
Identifying the right set of values is no doubt tough; however, the real challenge lies in
inculcating these values and making them come alive for everyone in the organisation.
What leaders need is a framework to guide them on how to translate values into
behaviours and ultimately impact Organisational performance.
Introducing - The Value Inculcation Model (VIM)
The Value Inculcation Model (VIM) has been created to bridge the gap between
identifying values and inculcating them. It was developed over 10 years of working with
organisations across four continents. The four-step, practical model supports leaders by
ensuring that the values directly translate to employee behaviours leading to enhanced
Organisational performance.
There is a Zen saying that "The way we do anything is the way we do everything." One
translation is that if an organisation is known to be a poor internal communicator
and departments work in silos, then the customer will receive poor service as this internal
attitude is reflected externally.
If the organisation, however, is customer-focused, this value will dictate the desired
behaviour toward customers. For example, if you are about to leave the office at the end
of the day and the phone rings, do you pick it up or continue on the way out the door?
If you value the customer, then you will answer the call. As a result, the customer
receives responsive service. When these types of customer-focused actions are
widespread and sustained, customer satisfaction starts to rise, as shown in the diagram
Figure 1
Answer Phone
after Hours
Behavioural psychology shows a clear relationship between values, attitudes and
behaviours. By changing people’s behaviours, you can start to influence results. Values
dictate attitude, which in turn dictates behaviour, which impacts Organisational
To change behaviour, leaders are required to translate an intrinsic value into an extrinsic
behaviour. For example, integrity is a value people have within them; it’s intrinsic. The
leaders strive to translate that integrity into expected behaviours, which are
extrinsic, e.g., delivering on promises and commitments made in meetings. In
another example, telling the truth is an intrinsic value that transfers to being truthful with
customers. One group of employees that Bridges worked with identified initiative as a
core value and further explained the value by describing three extrinsic behaviours
that demonstrated the value in action:
1. Identifying needs
2. Examining relevance of processes and
3. Resolving problems.
Extrinsic behaviours can be taught and encouraged through recognition and rewards.
Leaders will also be able to quantify and qualify the impact of the values,
encouraging the change they want to see in the behaviour of their staff members. Once
a value has been articulated as behaviour, it can now be seen and as such, can be
measured (and managed), as the Values Inculcation Model (VIM) indicates (Figure 2):
Figure 2
Value Inculcation Model (VIM)
and Reward
© Bridges Business Consultancy Int Pte Ltd
Step One: Values
The first step is to identify (or revisit) current values. There should only be four to six
values; any more than that and they cease to be core!
Defining core values isn’t something organisations do on a regular basis, although more
and more leaders today understand the important role, values play in Organisational
 Define the areas in which the organisation will not compromise - e.g., despite
crises or recession or high turnover, the organisation stands by its values
 Are positively chosen and will be firmly adhered to - people only subscribe to
those values they personally believe in, which is why top-performing organisations
hire people whose values match their own
 Can be clearly communicated - everyone in the organisation must understand the
values and therefore they must be capable of being communicated
 Are institutionalized i.e. they form a rock-solid foundation, remain intact for a long
period by being incorporated and reflected in Organisational systems
 Are demonstrated through the behaviours they encourage - the behaviour must
be displayed by the leadership team
 Come alive when for staff members when they compare intentions against
performance – they are verified through everyday actions of their peers and leaders
Once the importance of values is understood, the next step is to articulate the
desired attitudes and how they will manifest into behavioural attributes.
It is important, however, to note that to demonstrate the behaviours; employees must adopt
the right attitude by gaining the awareness, knowledge and conviction of the values.
Step Two: Attitude
Changing attitudes starts with awareness because if you are not aware of something, then
you can’t start to adopt it. Awareness alone, however, still isn’t enough. The awareness
must be fed with knowledge such as:
Why the values are important?
Why were they selected?
What behaviours must change?
What will be their impact on the business result?
After awareness and knowledge, individuals gain conviction through rational thought and
encouragement from their peers. Once they’ve gained conviction, they’ll start to change
their behaviours.
Step Three: Behaviours
Once employees have demonstrated the new behaviours, they should be encouraged to
repeat them until they become the accepted way and form part of the organisation’s cultural
To reinforce the right behaviours, the organisation’s leaders then need to put in place
measures to track performance. The measures provide feedback on the results of adopting
the new behaviours and may lead to taking corrective action along the way. This
information is shared with staff members so they understand how their efforts are
continually contributing to business improvements.
After measuring the impact of the new behaviours, people need to be encouraged to adopt
the new desired behaviours permanently. Leaders must find ways of encouraging people to
demonstrate the desired behaviours; clear any roadblocks and
recognize desirable staff behaviours appropriately. One way of doing that is building and
institutionalizing a recognition scheme to ensure behaviour is in consonance with stated
corporate values. Informal recognition can be as simple as a pat on the back and a
verbal ‘thank you’. Other organisations link the same to formalized performance
management systems.
Once leaders identify the core values as well as the attitudes and desired behaviours of
staff, they can review the impact of these changes on Organisational performance.
Two examples from education and technology demonstrate the relationship between
values and behaviours.
Example 1: Core Values - Leading Educational Institution:
We Believe in:
Passion for excellence
Willingness to change
Meritocracy/ performance orientation
Respect for dissent/ divergent views
Entrepreneurship with accountability
Translating these values into behavioural manifestations with both positive and
Negative attributes further clarifies the behaviour an employee is expected or not
expected to display:
Openess: Descriptors and support mechanisms:
Sharing information with team members
Making processes and systems transparent by providing the rationale and thinking
behind them
Fostering an atmosphere where ideas and opinions are shared freely
Defining roles and responsibilities clearly
Participative decision making
Sharing Organisational information and holding others accountable for sharing this
down the line and with other departments
Creating open channels of communication
Actions/ employee behaviours and work ethics that encourage / hinder an atmosphere of
Positive Behaviours/ Attributes
Negative Behaviours/ Attributes
 Releasing required information
 No transparency
 Willingness to discuss, debate
 Non availability of information
 Being open to feedback and taking it
 Lack of role and process clarity
 Adhoc decision making
 Informal, accessible and supportive
Example 2: Core Values -Intel
“At Intel, we believe in doing a great job for our customers, employees and stockholders by
providing innovative technology that touches people worldwide. Our employees put the Intel
values into practice each day governing how we conduct business, partner with our
communities and deal with each of our customers”. (see Table 1)
Table I
Risk Taking
Great Place to Work
Results Orientation
Here is how Intel translates its values into behaviours and tracks them to e nsure they
are woven into the very fabric of the organisation’s cultural ethos (see Table II)
Table II
Core Value
Behavioural Manifestation
Foster innovation and creative
Embrace change and challenge the
status quo
Listen to all ideas and viewpoints
Learn from our successes and mistakes
Risk taking
Managers assess
actions of direct
reports against
articulated behaviour s
(not values) as part
of their performance
review mechanism.
They provide
subjective and
quantifiable feedback
reward informed risk
Step Four: Organisational performance
By identifying core values, changing attitudes and encouraging new behaviours, the
organisation will start to transform. Your role as leader is now to ensure that the culture
fosters and supports the transformation and that the early adopters the followers are given
the right support and are taking the right actions to achieve the right results.
Make sure you give ongoing attention to the actions taken and their results to ensure you’re
headed down the right path.
Many organisations struggle to implement their values. Identifying them and hanging them
on the entrance wall is a common global practice. Changing the attitudes and behaviours of
staff and achieving a higher level of Organisational performance as a result of inculcating
the values is a rare trait shared by the select few organisations considered the best in the
Identifying the values for an organisation is only step one of a four step process. To
successfully become a value-driven organisation, leaders must translate core values into
what it means to staff member’s attitude and behaviours and then consider the overall
impact to Organisational performance.
Corresponding author
Robin Speculand can be contacted at [email protected]