2.10: How to Determine Your Core Values as an Organization
Whether your organization is a well-established player in the market or a fresh new startup based out of your garage, core values are a necessity. While they may seem much less important than other tasks and objectives to keep the company running smoothly, they are the bedrock on which the organization’s culture and operations are based. The structure, mission, strategy, and goals of an organization are all influenced heavily by its values. Core values represent what a company finds to be very important. They are the guiding tenets that not only help define how individuals should act, but also give the work a meaningful purpose.
Discovering the right core values for your organization is important as setting the right objectives and strategies. Objectives are future goals to be achieved through the careful execution of specific strategies. In this way, the objectives are the finish line and the strategies are the map. There must be an initial force entered into this equation to get the entire system in motion, however. That is where the core values come in. They are the starting shot to kick off the race, providing motivation and a sense of purpose to achieve the end goals.
Clearly, having a stellar lineup of company values to guide decision making is important. How do you find the values that are right for your organization, though? Here are three simple steps to get you started.
Yes, this may sound cliché, but this is the most essential step on the path to discover a company’s true values. Don’t start with a premade list of values as this may limit the creativity of thought. Also, it could potentially cause unconscious biases towards values on the list, whether they are representative of the company or not. Instead, start with a blank slate and let organizational members’ minds roam freely. Organize a diverse group of organizational members that includes individuals from as many departments and levels of leadership as possible. Support and record all ideas individuals have. At this stage, there is no wrong answer, just the goal of collecting as many ideas as possible. To avoid the dreaded groupthink, breaking the group into smaller teams that will reconvene with their ideas can be beneficial.
Now that you have a substantial master list of values from the brainstorming sessions, it’s time to find similarities. Affinity mapping is an effective tool to sort a large number of ideas into groups based on connections between them. This is easiest to do if each core value from the brainstorming session(s) is written on its own note card or sticky note so they can be physically moved and grouped. If you are working remotely, using a website like Mural is a great way to do this electronically. Grouping the core value ideas helps to find commonalities and thus, overarching themes that repeatedly show up based on the observations and experience of organizational members.
Once groups of similar values have been created, now it’s time to narrow down the options. There is no right answer for how many core values a company should have. It may be useful to keep the number under ten so that employees can easily recall them. This will then keep individuals focused on achieving goals with the guidance of the company’s core values in mind. Paring down the groups of values from the affinity mapping process to the most significant value from each group brings this discovery process to its ultimate goal. It’s essential to select values that resonate authentically with the company and to not simply pick values that sound nice. To be effective, the core values must truly resonate with employees and accurately describe what drives your organization.
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