Mission & Values: the 3rd Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Create a corporate mission & values that employees are aligned with.

The foundational material—mission and values—of a company can be critical to the overall success of the organization – but they’re often forgotten. The corporate mission and values are created by the senior leadership team, captured on posters, and strategically tacked up around the building. Meanwhile, how does a corporate citizen react to this phenomenon? They see it as “horse manure!” Whatever is in the mission or values statement is not seen as relevant to the organization’s day-to-day operations. In other words, the organization’s behavior is not congruent with its declaration of ideals.

However, at their best, a mission (or “reason for being”) and values give an organization a future to live into. This potential future galvanizes and focuses the organization. Whether or not goals are met entirely, movement toward them develops teamwork and is valuable to the company. So how do organizations get to this point?

Some of the following thinking and exercises were inspired by an article called “Building Your Company’s Vision,” by Collins and Porras, the authors of Built to Last. In the article, the authors describe how to write a reason for being and values.

When thinking about your company’s mission, think about purpose. Ask participants in your session to consider the following: What is the purpose of your organization? What would be lost if the organization ceased to exist? What kind of organization would you work for regardless if you got a salary or not, etc.

Now onto values. In this process when I say “values,” I mean the right behaviors that will support the business in its interactions with customers and vendors. They are the conduct and beliefs that will support positive and productive interaction between employees. This conduct will support the organization in delivering its reason for being. When working with your leadership team to create values, know that you only need to create between four and six. Too many and you end up with something like you do when you mix all colors: a sort of a purplish, brownish goop.

Start out by asking the group what values they come to work with. Then ask, “If you did not have to work, would you still demonstrate those values and behaviors just because they are the right ones to have?” Here’s the kicker: “What values, because they are the right ones, would you want your children to adopt for work?”

Typically, I ask for more than a one-word answer. If the value is “integrity,” I ask the group to give me a sentence that describes what integrity means. Everyone then writes their four to six values on flipcharts and posts them on the walls.

Afterward, participants present their values and the group can ask questions. Typically, the group discovers that their values are in the same ballpark, and they find comfort and reassurance in that fact. This is good news.

The next step begins when you split the larger group into smaller groups of five to seven people to develop the organization’s values. Ask the groups: “Given our reason for being, what are the four to six behaviors and values that will truly support the business, employees, and customers? What are the ‘right’ values to have, even if they are not advantageous in some business situations?”

These do not have to incorporate or include any of the team’s individual values. They do, however, need to align with them. What this means is that organizational values and individual values cannot go head-to-head and oppose each other. If a company values diversity and I’m a skinhead who values white supremacy above all else, that could be a problem. However, if one of my personal values is teamwork and the company value is collaboration, clearly there is synergy and alignment.

To learn more about CMI’s business planning process click here.