At my first job, I remember looking up and seeing the organizational values plastered all over the walls. They had something to do with a metaphorical bus. I think they said, “Get on the teamwork bus!”, or something.
The problem, of course, was that we didn’t really work as a team. The organization was engulfed by fear and infighting.
Despite the corporate bus posters and string of team building events, I soon found myself in what can be best described as, “the gap.”
The gap is realizing you’ve been sold on something so far divorced from reality, that, when you finally come to your senses and see things for what they are, you feel like you are part of some grand conspiracy–one that only you can see.
It’s the employee version of buyer’s remorse but in a more psychologically damaging kind of way.
You probably know it as, “being disengaged.”
According to Deloitte, eighty-seven percent of organizations reported that “employee engagement” was a major challenge. Fifty percent of employees surveyed reported they wouldn’t recommend their employer to others.
Fixing culture isn’t easy. But getting clear about what the organization’s purpose is and how it uses organizational values to advance the vision is a good starting point.
This means rethinking the idea of organizational values. Instead of acting as wall-hanging platitudes, organizational values can be thought of as powerful problem-solving tools.
Organizational Values In Africa
I’ve been to Africa twice now. Once to Ghana, and once to Mozambique. These two countries couldn’t be further from each other (They’re on opposite sides of the continent). But, guess what?
Both groups proclaimed the exact same values. And they consisted of the usual suspects: honesty, integrity, teamwork etc.
While working with my group in Mozambique, I challenged them on this.
“You say you believe in honesty and integrity, but how do I know? Prove it to me,” I jested.
The group had a hard time with this question.
The next day, while continuing our conversation, something interesting happened.
The president of the group was absent and the group opened up more than usual.
A story about not trusting the president soon emerged.
“The president took our money and spent it for himself!”, a member shouted.
The group blew up into chatter.
“But you told me the group valued honesty,” I responded.
I continued, “Values aren’t really values if you don’t use them. Values tell us how to act and behave. They help us solve problems. Being honest means speaking up when something dishonest happens.”
The group had an “aha” moment, and it was fantastic.
Your Organizational Values Suck. Here’s Why
“We believe in integrity,” you might hear; or better yet, “We believe in honesty.”
These values, while noble, are problematic for a couple of reasons:
A) Values such as “honesty” and “respect” are pretty universal.
It doesn’t really matter where you go. Ask people what they value and you’re bound to get some variation of honesty, integrity, or respect. I mean, most people probably don’t want to be around jerks or liars, let alone work with them.
Do you know anyone who would disagree with these values? I don’t.
B) They don’t really offer much in the way of solving problems.
While nice in a philosophical sense, these ideas are hard to apply in any real, tangible way. Values have to be verbs.
These are philosophical values.
In order for organizational values to matter, they need to be “operational.”
Fix Your Organizational Values With The Six Ps
Step 1. Evaluate Your Organization Using “The Six Ps” Framework
In the business management book, Lead With Your Customer, authors Mark David Jones and J. Jeff Kober say you can transform your culture and brand using “The Six Ps.”
The Six Ps formula will help you deliberately operationalize the vision and values of your brand and internal culture by giving you a snapshot of how you already operate.
What’s cool about this, is that it allows you quickly identify areas for improvement.
The Six Ps Formula
Promise < People + Place + Process + Product > Price
Translation: Your promise (brand) must exceed the services (people, place, process, product) and be well worth the price (costs of interacting with the business)
Business have two sets of customers: employees and external customers
Here’s JetBlue’s call center program run through the Six Ps. JetBlue allows their customer service reps to work from home. Although they pay less money compared to other call centers, the promise of a flexible, work at home environment exceeds the services (People, Place, Process, and Product) involved and is well worth the price (less pay).
JetBlue’s Call Center Program run through the 6Ps
Take the time to run through the entire framework. Done well, you should find opportunities for “quick wins.” When you’ve flushed it out, move on to step 2.
Step 2. Run Your Organizational Values Through The Integrity Net
Once you the run your organization through the Six Ps, you can plug in the company’s organizational values to identify cultural alignment/misalignment.
This is an example of a fitness club infusing their core values of safe and clean, cutting edge, and supportive into each of their Six Ps.
Each organizational value is operationalized into the Six Ps. This fitness club doesn’t just talk about being cutting edge, they exemplify it.
Using this same framework, you can improve internal processes such as onboarding, on the job training, performance management, or any other elements vital to your organizational culture.
Culture Is Your Competitive Advantage
Sticking mission statements, value posters, and corporate jargon on the walls are all meaningless, and, in many cases, potentially harmful if not reflected in the day-to-day operations of the company.
Operationalizing your culture through the Six Ps and integrity net tool, along with the use of internal storytelling, comprise some of the most powerful and underutilized tools in an organization’s arsenal.
When organizations start with why, understand that employees are their most important customers, and infuse their organizational values into everything they do–that’s when things like employee turnover and engagement will be less of an issue.
That’s when people will work more for than just a paycheck. And that’s an organization’s real competitive advantage.
*Want to learn more about Integrity Nets and The 6Ps? Grab Lead With Your Customer Here.
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