Professional Values Management in Practice – Part IV: The finishing straight!

Bild eines Kompass
Use the Compass now!

After we have looked at the steps of identifying and fixing values in the last articles,now we are dealing with the supreme discipline in values management: the cultivation of values! Unfortunately, this is exactly the part that is simply ignored in countless companies, because it always goes hand in hand with change and cannot be realized overnight. Exactly because of this change, one goes the preceding steps! If the implementation remains open, everything preceding was meaningless. We notice only at the efforts for the cultivation of the values whether it was fake action for (bad) marketing or whether the differentiation advantage is to be realized! Cultivation is helped by implementing a values management system that has been cleverly designed beforehand.  A catalog of measures for operationalizing the values in each area of the company is accompanied by expanded controlling instruments (e.g., value scorecard), responsibilities and organizational structure changes. In addition, the binding definition of permanent reflection/training spaces (temporal and organizational) in everyday processes is a MUST (rituals, dialogs, confrontations, awards, …). The most common questions you approached me with since the last blog post were about values-based leadership: How can we get our leaders to bring the values to life? I’m happy to address that here….

Cultivating the value system requires consistent and day-to-day implementation in all processes, areas, services, products, and thus in the full-blown actions of the company. At this stage of the values management cycle, the company must be completely imbued with the fixed values with the aid of the instruments now available, and all processes must be put to the values test and, if necessary, changed. The focus is on the following question: “How do we develop value-related consistency and sustainability in all aspects in order to permanently ensure our sense of purpose in its uniqueness?” This step also includes the values-related reflection and review of all products and services produced by the company for consistent values fit. As a rule, it becomes apparent at some points in this step that the operationalized values concepts are not yet fully lived out in all processes and that the corresponding processes, products and services therefore need to be calibrated.
This step automatically leads to process and product innovations, as they involve fresh thinking and changed actions for the company. In individual cases, it may well be that core processes such as leadership and organization in the company also need to be redefined. In order to take account of the required consistency in such a way that the demands on an existing mission statement are met anew, the concretization and implementation of leadership guidelines, for example, is a good means.
Most recently, I was able to implement this with the management team of the Caritas Association in Würzburg. In a two-day process, values were operationalized on the basis of an existing mission statement and translated into leadership guidelines, the focus of which is their applicability in practice. And this is where it gets very interesting, because in a particularly challenging environment, as was the case at the time with the COVID pandemic, the inner strength of all managers is needed for implementation! Caritas Würzburg is a good example of this, because the value resources in this organization have a strong ideological foundation. This works especially well in finding an answer to the question of why values-oriented action is needed. The justifications are then based on an individual Christocentric spirituality of intrinsically anchored values and not on an often artificially generated “sense of urgency,” as Kotter would say. This truth always provides a great AHA effect, especially for my students: the world has a multitude of metaphysical approaches to the normative justification of right behavior. It is good to know these intimately in order to be able to develop the appropriate narrative for a particular leadership team. What does your own ideological foundation look like? If you know it, then use it by also confessing it…. “Shared Values” do not need a singular justification, but may also be discussed with the variety of individual justification contexts. This helps, by the way, to raise the spiritual capital in the company, which comes from the spiritual intelligence of human beings and triggers the strongest intrinsic motivation that is possible in humans.

Here is also my practical tip in response to your questions about value-oriented leadership: Lead in diversity but together, instead of alone! Shared values-based leadership is mutually reinforcing and based on the preceding value discovery process. Leaders learn in the first steps of the values management cycle that they are not alone – that defining a good shared future is a participatory and discourse-ethical process that respects everyone’s worldview. Building on this, working out the values strengths of individual leaders and also managing the cultivation of values in a joint exchange with these strengths gives the change process the necessary momentum! Those who experience for themselves how their own strengths favor the implementation of values also make use of the individual resources of their employees. As an organization, each person can set his or her own values priorities, so that ultimately the entire values portfolio becomes organizationally visible in the sum of the team. This is an important difference to narrow behavioral commitments in the sense of automated people who are not themselves but only extrinsically motivated implementers.

If values are then applied as a new benchmark, it is imperative that this is done in an easily understandable and participatory manner. The method of analysis used to adapt products and services must be simple and transparent, in order to once again harness the power of the entire workforce in terms of discourse ethics, irrespective of the subject and level of training. The use of a simple value matrix has proven effective for this purpose: Process steps or service steps and product aspects are made visible in small detail in the columns, while the individual values to be considered are listed in the rows. The next step is to qualitatively assess the degree of fulfillment of the respective value in each column from the employee and customer perspective and to derive adjustments from this so that each process or service step and product aspect credibly meets all values. Success lies in simplicity – beyond incomprehensible theories and exaggerated ratings! Use the common sense of values of your team, take your time with the diagnosis and look forward to the innovations that lie in the adjustments! Consistent application of strong values promotes visible differentiation through actual action!

At this stage of the values management cycle, the sharpened corporate ethos often leads to the most important and tangible improvements for stakeholders, up to a complete paradigm shift. At this point at the latest, depending on the values set, initial discussions about the realization of sustainability aspects, e.g. in the form of Agenda 2030 and its sustainability goals, through corporate action are likely. These discussions thus experience a resilient justification from within the corporate ethos itself, in contrast to mere, non-values-based engagement based on external reporting requirements.
This ideal of self-examination and reflection is also relevant for the fit of the values system to possibly changed ideas in the clientele and other stakeholders. Reflection in the company must now be made a permanent feature by conducting dialogs with appropriate stakeholders on a regular basis. This ranges from the discussion of internal and external reporting, the organization of multi-stakeholder forums, participation in political industry networks, the establishment of a customer, value or sustainability advisory board and other instruments to ensure that topics relevant to the future are identified, discussed and reflected upon against the values background of the stakeholders. Based on these findings, values and the values management system must be regularly reflected upon in an institutionalized manner. Only in this way can it be recognized at what point in time the values management process requires an update and continuation of relevant customer and employee values and which process steps thus need to be gone through again.

Contemporary values management, which forms the basis of any sustainability in corporate management and also of any credible sustainability management, takes into account holistically visible and invisible factors of people and organization. Embedded in the basic understanding of questions of meaning of all actors, it remains a values-related permanent task to manage and further develop the optimally connecting and strategy-supporting unique values portfolio in the company in a discourse-ethical and reflexive way. Please feel free to contact me if you would like an external view that enables you to grow resiliently from your own value strength!