Professional values management in practice – Part III: Which values actually?

After the past article on the values management cycle, many have asked which specific values are actually relevant for companies to become or remain successful! Is there a general list that can be worked off? No, there is not! At least not if you work on a company level or even the level of an organizational unit. Everything that is available on the market in this regard absolutely needs a comparison with the context, circumstances and goals of the company. As already explained in the last article, “imposed” values of third parties cannot create a long-term effect on people. It is not possible to simply “impart” values to adult people, as is so often said, but only to activate existing values or to link to them in order to introduce a limited number of new values into the acceptance matrix of the respective people. In the end, only the intrinsic values in the people themselves are really lived. That is why it is always about the people involved and their ideas! This cannot be repeated often enough! How do we proceed in concrete terms? Read on here:

For me, there is an important indicator of which values can really be successfully activated in a particular generation. To do this, I look at the educational ideas of the respective generation of parents: Tell me when you were born and where you grew up and how, and I’ll tell you who you are ūüôā This can be scientifically proven, for example, by the results of the largest sociological empirical study in the world: the World Values Survey. Some consultants often sell esoteric and scientifically very questionable nonsense here. Do not fall for these things, but question the claimed value correlations and category formations and ask about the causalities.

The fixation of a differentiating values set requires the selection from a current ACTUAL values culture and consciously considers the uniqueness of the organization. This differentiating set of values is based on the insight that above all in saturated markets with largely homogeneous goods and services a unique corporate culture that cannot be copied represents an indispensable soft asset – also as a basis for strong brand values. The focus is on the unique interplay and combination of values against the background of a clear corporate vision and mission. Through permanently institutionalized reflection and ongoing discourse-ethical development of the values set in the context of the respective company and the integrative implementation of the SET values in all existing processes, organizational integrity is ensured in the long term and a schizophrenia trap is avoided.

The first step is to identify the existing values base in the company. In practice, this step is all too often simply skipped, or the values are regarded as just already given. In the worst case the enterprise orients itself according to the value understanding of few top leaders equipped with organizational power and externally influenced by marketing or management consulting suggesting values, which are then simply set and regarded as relevant. Such an approach usually does not reflect broad enough social reality and thus the values potential actually present in the company, but leads from the outset into a dreaming farce, which, if at all, can only coincidentally correspond to the actual values regime in the company.¬†Values in the company should be lived broadly by all people, which is why it is essential to link up with the existing values in the workforce. Even with the most sophisticated change management methods, people are not easy to transform in their own moral understanding. If the aim is to realize human values in a way that can be felt from within, it is necessary to link up with this existing morality.¬†Here it becomes clear that the necessary normativity in purpose-centered values management can only be achieved through a process of discourse ethics in the corresponding environment. It requires self-assured leadership to engage in the moderation of a truly open and transparent values identification process, because the two extremes of the possible insights could not be more different: On the one hand, the values portfolio existing in the relevant workforce can fit perfectly with the corporate strategy that may already have been fixed and would thus greatly simplify the further course of the values management process. On the other hand, however, it can also be recognized that the values regime that has been made visible and is generally firmly anchored in the workforce runs completely counter to the corporate strategy that has already been fixed.¬†The aim of this step is to ascertain the current state of the employee’s values and to identify the current value base. With mixed qualitative and quantitative methods of empirical research, the existing value regime can be mapped, for example, through surveys, participatory observation, document analysis, mapping of rituals, etc. During this process, it is discovered which values are currently particularly relevant for the workforce, which value definitions already have a largely uniform understanding within the company and which values can currently not be found in the company. The complete mapping of this existing values system is the starting point for later conscious culture sharpening and change. Particularly important for the acceptance of the results in this step is the consideration of the abundance of all values contributed by the entire workforce, values from the company history and essential values of other core stakeholders. In order to become able to carry out an assessment of the values portfolio, an analysis of the values concepts of the customers and possibly other relevant stakeholder groups in the company’s most important markets is just as necessary as a defined vision and the description of corresponding strategies. The two strategy-relevant tasks of concretely defining the company’s goals and also defining and analyzing the relevant stakeholders are prerequisites for taking the next step in the values management cycle:

Now it is all about evaluating the value system identified in the company. The values now made visible are put to the test in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and to find starting points for meaningful adjustments and additions. In this step, the existing values are generally compared with the strategic goals and vision, with the values of the customers and other key stakeholders relevant to the company and with the values deemed necessary for the highest possible success potential in the markets relevant to the company. It is important that the understanding of success here is not limited to peculiar management variables but is determined largely by the vision and purpose of the company. The fit of the values must be evaluated based on its possible contribution to success: Which values are helpful or even indispensable? Which values are essential for which goals, markets, brands and stakeholders? This is not just about individual values, but about the design of a complete and coherent set of values that allows the company to differentiate, at the same time uses, and further expands the existing value strengths in the company. The derivation of an optimal values portfolio is carried out with help of an essentiality matrix for the preselection and evaluation of suitable value sets.

The prevailing value system needs to be adapted in a meaningful and target-oriented way. This is done by focusing on a selection of already existing, particularly accepted values and the inclusion of additional, goal-related, indispensable values. A few values that are yet not anchored sufficiently in the workforce can be included in the optimal values portfolio at this stage, so that the prevailing culture is adapted. However, these values require arguments for connectivity and proximity to already accepted values in order to be accepted. With these assessments, the question ‚ÄúHow should and do we want to be and act?‚ÄĚ is jointly discussed within the company and a portfolio of particularly important values is fixed for the company. The discussion culminates in the determination of approx. three to ten top values, to which the company and its employees are then actively committed. And that’s where the public comes in! Now it is a matter of jointly adopting and demonstrating the “declaration of core values”, “value guiding stars” or whatever you want to call it then.

In the next article, I will go into the steps that are still missing and, of course, your further questions – feel free to mail me again …