Many larger organisations have very well publicised organisational values, but what purpose do they serve? I've been thinking about this a fair amount as I start putting my website together.
What values do I want for my organisation and where have they evolved from? How will they affect my organisation and the way I work, or are they just words on curling posters or hidden behind numerous badges on a lanyard?
OK, so as I was driving to fit my eldest daughter's new dishwasher a little while ago, my youngest was playing Christmas songs in the car. It was far, far too early for Mud, Slade or Michael Bublé. If she reached Boney M there was a real risk that I might have started remembering dances from my youth and lost control of the car. So I went into thinking and reflecting mode.
What I realised was that we had a very strong values-based approach to parenting and personal relationships.
Our marriage is based on shared core values and our parenting made explicit our expectations about behaviours based on those values. Shared values remain the golden thread of our family life. Our personal values involve unconditional love and open communication, a strong work ethic and recognition of achievement (our children would say expectation). We believe in honesty, owning mistakes and knowing that, regardless of what happens, the sun will rise tomorrow.
Those values have seen us through good times and challenging times, with a resilience and strength that comes from having sure foundations to base our lives on. It was a lovely reflection, with my husband backseat driving and my daughter shaking to random festive songs. I am rarely described as 'chilled' (perhaps unfairly, tiger mother more often) but with acknowledgement from others that we have a right to be proud of the people are children have become. That isn't entirely down to good luck; it was about our shared beliefs and values, as parents.
So where does that fit into work? Think about some of the organisations you know and maybe look up their values. Which furniture company would you think has 'Humbleness and willpower' as one of their underpinning values?
Which stuffed toy company might use 'Cele-bear-ate' as one of their values?
The furniture store one made me smile, as it was so very appropriate - who has not felt the need for great willpower when trying to interpret the instructions of a flat pack chest of drawers or the need for humility when your mother-in-law asks where the lovely vase came from?
I can think of at least a couple of times organisational values have been rather important to my work as a leader and regulator. One involved persuading an employment tribunal panel that our organisational value of integrity went far beyond handing in a wallet you had found and that it is an absolute essential for anyone wanting to work in regulation. We have to be beyond reproach if we are to succeed in gaining the respect and trust of those we work with. The panel accepted this was the case and came to understand that lying to further your own ends did not sit well with regulation and was sufficient grounds for dismissal. We need our staff to be honest.
We now recruit using our values as a guide and have the expectation that all staff seeking appointment will know and support the four values of the Commission - Excellence, Teamwork, Integrity and Caring. If you rearrange them you can come up with the acronym CITE - a very appropriate one since Commission staff spend so much time citing regulations, national guidance and key policy documents. They are simply how we work.
What are your organisation values? How were they created? Were staff involved or were they imposed? Are they mentioned at recruitment and do you explore the commitment of applicants to upholding the values?
Being clear from the outset saves disappointment and more work later on. If staff are clear about the expected ways of working, they can be supported to behave in a way that meets expectations. If staff know that everyone, at all levels, should be courteous, it becomes easier to raise concerns when they see another member of staff or manager being rude to a visiting relative or junior member of staff.
Our Towards Outstanding company brand and my book series are all based around the use of reflection as a tool for personal, professional and organisational improvement. We focus very much on excellence in health and social care and see excellence as being very achievable. In fact, we believe that excellent care and treatment is a right for all people using health and social care services. In order to deliver that focus on outstanding practice, we have very clear organisational values for Towards Outstanding Limited and the affiliated brands.
Our values are CHIVE - Compassion, Honesty, Innovation, Value and Excellence. If we want to be outstanding and want those we work with to be outstanding then these are the minimum we expect from ourselves and those we work with.
Strong commitment to shared organisational values helps build a culture where staff feel safe and as a consequence that improves the experience for the staff and people using the service - unless you've imposed completely the wrong values. I do remember a service whose key selling point and organisational value was 'the cheapest surgery in Europe' and 'thriftiness'. Unsurprisingly, they didn't stay open long.