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February 10, 2017 // 0 Comments

Where Do Values Come From?

Where do values come from?

Values are at the heart of an organizations culture as you can see from my favorite definition:

  • Culture is “The shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.” – Answers.com

All organizations start from one person’s idea and every individual is shaped by:

  • Family
  • Community
  • Institutions
  • Social norms
  • Physical environment

Therefore, every one of us carries a collection of values. When we convince someone else to help us implement our vision we now have two people working together. These two individuals need to reconcile their own personal values in order to create a separate set of values to govern their interactions together. It’s these collective shared values that form the heart of a culture.

Whether you want shared values to emerge or not, they will happen either intentionally or organically. It’s the role of an Agile leader to set an intention and foster the creation of shared values to form the foundation for a healthy organizational culture.

Let’s examine the two main ways to create your organizational values; top down and bottom up.

Top Down

A top down strategy is where “senior leadership” comes up with the collection of values and then communicates them throughout the organization. This strategy is especially effective for entrepreneurs when they are first starting out and trying to attract their initial team.

Pros:

  • Typically, faster to create because of fewer people being involved
  • If the leaders are the founders then the values are truly authentic to the roots of the organization

Cons:

  • If not handled tactfully the team may resent the values because they didn’t have a say in their creation
  • May not represent the overall diversity of the organization

Bottom Up

A bottom up strategy involves asking everyone in the organization to contribute to the larger discussion of what the organization’s values are. This approach works best when the company is already well established and values are no longer relevant or were never created.

Pros:

  • Improved buy-in because everyone had a say
  • If done well, the new values can very accurately reflect the overall culture of the people

Cons:

  • If your organization is large then It’s a messy process and can take a long time
  • Some will feel hurt that their suggestions weren’t incorporated into the final list

Summary

In the end, there is no one “right” way to introduce values into your organizations. In fact, you will probably face criticism for either approach because you can’t make everyone happy. What’s more important than any of this is having a meaningful collection of values that accurately represent the heart of the culture you are trying to establish.

Is it time to re-visit your organizations values? If they aren’t relevant or if they don’t exist then what are you waiting for?

Brian Rabon, CST, PMP

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