I am working with a consultant in India around impacting people and performance using our Square Wheels tools for communications and active involvement. In our discussion, she mentioned that her client wanted to generate better alignment to 13 values, including:
• Long term focus
• Hard work and Drive
• Rewarding Success
• Non-Conformist Intellectual Capital
• Openness and Transparency
• Continuous Transformation Spirit
They are also apparently in the process of fleshing out the meanings of the above, the desired behaviors that would make these more visible and impactful within the organization. When I took a moment to think about these, some alarm bells started ringing in my head as I remembered a similar kind of event way back when…
But changing organizational culture and creating meaningful and actionable missions and visions is also an art form, with a variety of potential problematic issues and possible unintended negative consequences. It is not fairy dust and a magic wand and something easily accomplished in a tops-down framework.
So, I started an email response and then thought, why not write a blog post that might be useful for this communication. The focus is on communicating visions and values needs to be done in a really organic, honest and impactful way. So, let me share a really good example of what to do and why:
The retiring chairman of a regional company was looking to leave a legacy of values as they were transitioning to a new management team. He wanted to keep what he felt were their people and performance strengths and put these into a visible statement of visions and values, to make his legacy into a very meaningful framework for the next decade.
From senior management discussions, the leadership team generated a list of bullet points as potential items for this new statement of mission. Logically, they wanted to test those themes with their management. My consulting company was tasked with running two-day “Leadership Development” sessions across the organization to discuss those values and discuss the behaviors that were essential and congruent. One of the resources we used was Max DePree’s “Leadership is an Art” book (1987) — a truly magnificent work that is eminently readable. (Here is one, used, for $5.)
One of Max’s numerous great quotes from the book that I have used for 30 years is,
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
We were testing bulleted items in the context of both doing leadership development and discussing high performance management frameworks, to build on their existing strengths. It was a pretty elegant program design by my old colleague, Kenneth Junkins.
One such item was:
“We manage with uncompromising integrity.”
Sounds good. How was it judged? Not all that well, from the perspectives of these front-line managers who were probably not allowed to participate in as much decision-making as they would have liked. One of them reframed this, reworded it, to become:
“We manipulate with inflexible righteousness.”
Maybe this needed revisiting, do you think?
Since that time, this one incident has continued to remind me to actively involve the people who will be impacted by policies and procedures to check and verify, test and evaluate, before moving forward.
The concept of “Unintended Consequences” is reframed by legal people as a failure to be diligent and a failure to look at potential specific outcomes that are, in fact, predictable. Step cautiously, is my suggestion. Ask, evaluate, and be sure to get a variety of perspectives.
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.
Check out my Square Wheels Stupidly Simple Facilitation Toolkit, on our website. It is a complete program, for $25.
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