Tactics to improve the impact of your value statement on corporate culture
'Corporate Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast'
Too often, we develop our Vision, Mission, and Values outside of the context of what we want our company to achieve. In a worst-case scenario, we end up with three separate entities: 1) our Vision/Mission/Values statement, 2) our strategy, and 3) our company. The old adage, "Corporate culture eats strategy for breakfast" is true for 80% of the strategies that fail.
The key to overcoming these issues is how you deal with values. There are two tactics that can improve the impact of your value statement on your corporate culture:
Words like "Customer-Centric", "Ethics", and "Integrity" mean different things in various parts of the world. In some cultures, there is no word for "Integrity". In others, the closest word is more about how a person appears to others than it is about how closely they hold their internal values. As you choose value definitions, you'd better make sure that everyone in the company has the same understanding of them and feels that they can embrace them. Deeply explore how you can interculturally validate your organization's values here.
Tactic #2. Define your values with behaviors.
Simply using a list of words that describe your values may make it emotionally and culturally irrelevant to your staff; instead, define your values with behaviors. Ask every one of your staff a simple question: "If I followed you around for a week or two, what behavior would I need to look for that would prove to me that you are living out this value?" Then encourage them to include the value in their behavior as far as possible.
That doesn't mean just writing it down in your "Policy & Procedures" file or including it in your "Employee Handbook." You have to allow the staff, with all the cultural variety that you have in multi-national organizations, to define what the values mean, and you need to have a system to encourage that behavior on a regular basis. Discover exactly how you can define your organization's values with behavior here.
The desired behaviors must be built by the whole organization. They need to be celebrated and reinforced by the whole organization through different forms of media, different creative processes, and through 'celebration time' to recognize those that have lived out those values.
The outcome: A value statement that influences behavior, enables decisions, and creates boundaries.
Companies would be wise to take at least three years to build these values into the organization. Then these behavioral statements become decision-enablers that create boundaries around what is acceptable and unacceptable in the organization. Once this is in place, your staff will start to say "This is the way we do things around here," and your values will be integrated into your company culture and ready to support strategy. See if your company's values are on the 10 most commonly used corporate values and see how you can culturally validate them here.
This can be a difficult process, but once achieved, it creates a lot of positive innovation, creativity, energy, and belonging in the organization. Taking the time and effort to go through the steps outlined above will enable your company to tackle issues that are essential for a healthy inter-cultural corporate environment: A common purpose, social capital, clear communication, and trust.
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