Bruce Holland

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Strategic Development of Organisational Values


Many managers know they 'should' have Organisational Values; therefore, they sit in the Board Room for a few hours and agree what the Values will be. Then they communicate these to everyone else in the organisation, often in a 'roadshow'; next they frame them and proudly hang them on the wall, expecting performance to increase like they have read about. Unfortunately, there is usually no improvement, and in the field people laugh at their stupidity. It fails because the Values never get beyond the paper into the hearts of people. A wise person once said: the 14 inches from the head to the heart is a long, long journey. The way Virtual Group develops Values is totally different and guaranteed to work!

The establishment of Organisational Values is often, but not always, part of a larger process of Culture Change.

What are Values and Behaviours

Values are the things we believe in, the things we hold dear, the things we will not trade off no matter how expedient it may be.

Behaviours are actions, they can be seen and measured. Behaviours are how we act towards each other, the things we will do for each other and the things we will not do to each other.

Behaviours and Values need to be aligned, otherwise people will become confused and they will pull against each other and become discredited.

Why Values are important

With common agreed values people can trust each other to behave in acceptable and predictable ways. The only alternative is to have endless rules and procedures. Rules tend to limit people while Values tend to liberate.

There is a direct connection between Values and trust in an organisation. Values affect the way we behave at a very fundamental level. Values are more powerful than rational thought, since no matter how much we "know" something should happen, it will not happen unless it is consistent with our values.

Research shows the power of Value Statements should not be underestimated. They are capable of delivering significant dollars to the bottom line as long as people believe in them. Values do make a difference.

Values are particularly important in widely dispersed organisations and when there is considerable change.

Values are more powerful than rational thought.

An Example - BNZ

My personal experience at the Bank of New Zealand backs up this research. From 1988 to 1992 when I was Group Strategic Planning Manager, the BNZ undertook perhaps the most progressive and ambitious values based cultural development process ever attempted in New Zealand.

The day I joined the Bank, the directors asked the government for a $350m bailout to stop the bank from going into liquidation. Three months later a new Chief Executive was appointed called Lindsay Pyne. One of the first things I heard Lindsay say was: "It's not my Bank, it's our Bank. If we're going to make it work we will have to do it together!" This signaled the start of a major project where 6500 staff in 350 branches were all involved working out "what sort of Bank we wanted to create." After we were about a third of the way through involving the 6,500 people, I recommended that we stop the process because everyone was agreeing what needed to be done. To his credit Lindsay said he want every person to touch and own the process. The results were surprising even to those of us who intuitively knew that it would work. The energy and creativity released had to be experienced to be believed. It proved that people really want to be great; they need it; they crave to be part of a winning team, and they value the chance to contribute to the success of their company at a fundamental level. As a result, the change process, that all our research said would take 10 years, was completed in 3 years and the bank went from bottom to first or second in most industry indicators and was eventually sold for $1.5b to National Australia Bank in 1992.

Values and customer service

Until recently most management books stressed that the most important thing was customer service; today many authors are recognising that Values are more fundamental because if people feel good about themselves and what they are doing they will do a better job of taking care of the customer.

When to use Values

Indicators that suggest it's time for managers to reexamine their values include:

  1. Poor morale
  2. Loss of best staff
  3. People stressed
  4. Rituals, symbols and myths not positive
  5. Unwritten rules/barriers
  6. Self talk of organisation unhelpful
  7. If managers and staff have no common understanding of Vision

Benefits of Values

Benefits from stronger values include:

  1. Better morale across the organisation
  2. Better team work
  3. Less stress
  4. Higher profits
  5. More speed
  6. Reduced costs
  7. Happier customers
  8. Increased competitive advantage
  9. Less need for rules and restrictions
  10. People working as though they owned the business
  11. Better cohesion and collaboration between various parts of the business
  12. Everyone working to the same agenda
  13. People working hard on the business rather than in the business
  14. Fewer surprises
  15. More collaboration and participation because everyone understands their role.

Our Process to Develop Values

  • Most importantly, our process is a process. It is not a one-day wonder, enjoyed but then forgotten. It takes time to change values; it's a process of discussion, debate, listening and contributing, involving people in short workshops over a period of time long enough to achieve permanent results.
  • Our process does not try to change people (you can't change people all that much), rather it draws out the decency and positivity that exists within every person if you have a process designed to bring it to the surface.
  • Our process ends with new thoughts in the head of every single person within the organisation, not just words on a piece of paper stuck on a wall.
  • Every person will feel they can challenge when they see behaviours that don't match up.
  • Our process makes Values the focus of dialogue where people come together to discuss, and listen to what's important to them and each other.
  • Our process ensures Values are reinforced, reinforced and reinforced.
  • When our part of the process is at an end we do not leave the client unsupported. We set up Action Learning Groups and other mechanisms to support and reinforce the Values over the long-term.

Our process is modular

Every Values Process we undertake is different and tailored to fit the client like a glove after a careful Diagnostics Stage (see chart below).

However, in our process, we usually work with all managers and staff to:

  1. Define the appropriate Values
  2. Translate the Values into behaviours that match the Values (things we will do and things we won't do.

Then we work with managers and staff usually in Project Teams to:

  1. Analyse processes, policies and procedures so ensure they reinforce the Values rather than work against them
  2. Examine structural issues and organisational issues that arise with the introduction of Values.

Finally we work one-on-one with managers and staff to:

  1. Support those who are having problems in adopting the new Values.

We have found that this Process can't be rushed, the best results are achieved by working with teams and Project Teams in short sessions supported by written material and with time in between sessions so people can confer, think deeply and practice what has been discussed. The final decisions are always made within the organisation by those who will live the Values and behave accordingly.

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Consultants. Bruce is a specialist in business culture and values Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector culture and other large private sector organisations.


All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

Next step

For more information about how you can use our Culture Program give the Virtual Manager a call or ring Bruce Holland direct.

Bruce Holland
Phone +6421 620456
Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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