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Values and Culture - Not Just a 'Nice to Have'

In Peter Drucker's famous words, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast'.

And he's right!

This study by Gallup shows a clear link between a healthy culture and professional and personal results

It also shows the link between values and culture, and shows the need to demonstrate intentional leadership to generate the values-driven culture that will help businesses thrive.

I have seen almost innumerable lists of core values for different types of businesses that are little more than advertising slogans that nobody pays attention to. Words such as 'honesty' and 'respect' are usually inserted as a matter of course, but are rarely used to guide decisions around recruitment, promotion, strategy, etc. However, done properly, combined values and culture are a source of significant competitive advantage: when you have the right people behaving the right way and doing the right things in the right manner, engagement (and hence productivity) soars. 

How do you intentionally drive values and culture? Here are some steps to help:

Values - distinguish between the different types (see Patrick Lencioni's excellent book

'The Advantage' for more information):

- Core values: These are the values that are unique to your business, are already ingrained and help you achieve your mission and vision. They need not be moral, e.g., innovation may be one. However, you must know that your business has this value more than your competitors. They are in your organisational DNA.

- Permission to play values: These values are necessary for your business sector and are shared by all successful players. 

- Aspirational values: Many make the mistake of classifying their aspirational values as core values. As noted above, core values are already extant. Aspirational values are what you want your values to be in the future.

- Accidental values: Not all embedded values are good. Accidental values are those which are part of your DNA, like core values, but which are unhelpful in pursuit of your goals. 

A common mistake is to generate long lists of values - stick to 2-4 for each category and drive the changes necessary to transform the current situation.

Culture - This is basically 'how things are done here'. To analyse your current cultural picture, Johnson & Scholes' Cultural Analysis Web is simple and powerful. It examines the following areas and can be used to plan developments in each:


·      What stories do people currently tell about your organisation?

·      What reputation is communicated amongst your customers and other stakeholders?

·      What do these stories say about what your organisation believes in?

·      What do employees talk about when they think of the history of the company?

·      What stories do they tell new people who join the company?

·      What heroes, villains and mavericks appear in these stories?

Rituals and Routines

·      What do customers expect when they walk in?

·      What do employees expect?

·      What would be immediately obvious if changed?

·      What behaviour do these routines encourage?

·      When a new problem is encountered, what rules do people apply when they solve it?

·      What core beliefs do these rituals reflect?


·      Is organisation-specific jargon or language used? How well known and usable by all is this?

·      Are there any status symbols used?

·      What image is associated with your organization, looking at this from the separate viewpoints of clients and staff?

Organizational Structure

·      Is the structure flat or hierarchical? Formal or informal? Organic or mechanistic?

·      Where are the formal lines of authority?

·      Are there informal lines?

Control Systems

·      What process or procedure has the strongest controls? Weakest controls?

·      Is the company generally loosely or tightly controlled?

·      Do employees get rewarded for good work or penalized for poor work?

·      What reports are issued to keep control of operations, finance, etc...?

Power Structures

·      Who has the real power in the organisation?

·      What do these people believe and champion within the organisation?

·      Who makes or influences decisions?

·      How is this power used or abused?


As these questions are answered, you start to build up a picture of what is influencing your corporate culture.

Now you need to look at the web as a whole and make some generalised statements regarding the overall culture.

These statements about your corporate culture should:

Describe the culture.

Identify the factors that are prevalent throughout the web.

As always, the energy and direction necessary to execute effective change starts with good leadership.

At a time when change, and recruitment and retention are significant issues for many organisations, a healthy, values-driven culture is increasingly important. 

Get in touch if you would like to discuss how to move your business forward and realise your potential. 

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