Recently, I was reading a book called Built to Last by Jim Collins. In it, he speaks about how all great, enduring companies have a set of company values they live by. Company values are nothing new – they're in the organisation handbook that lives in the filing drawer, never given much thought.
Collins emphasises that great companies not only have values, they live by them. They are integrated into every facet of the organisation. They are what the company stands for, and a standard it measures itself against.
Inspired, I decided to give it a try. I have to say, it's made a tangible difference to our business. Here's what we did:
We got our team together. We explained what company values are, and then we had a creative discussion on what made us who we are. What kind of environment do we want to work in? What kind of people do we want to work with? What do we commit to delivering to our clients? How do we want to relate to our clients, and our clients to relate to us? What makes us happy and fulfilled at work?
After really listening to our team, themes and ideas began to form. We took on their feedback and came up with a draft list of 10 values. Then we tinkered, debated, and revised, until everyone was happy we'd captured the essence of what we're about.
Now we had the values – that's the easy part. But how would we make them come alive, saving them from the back of the filing drawer? A few things need to happen...
The values are visible, on the wall in front of every team members desk
All new team members are taken through a values orientation, with working examples of the values put into practice.
Every week at our team meetings, we recognise specific instances where one of our values has been put into practice.
We make new hires, not just based on experience, but on how the candidate reflects our values. It's amazing how company values create a clear picture of the type of person that will be a good "fit" for your organisation.
So what was the result?
I guess in essence, the whole process has defined what we're about. Our team own the values, because they helped create them. Our people feel like they are part of something they were part of build. New people to our organisation quickly understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect from us. It's also given us more consistency – the way we operate across the board now has a core character to it.
Creating our core values has been an organisation-changing experience for us. Speaking personally, it's been one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in business thus far. I can't recommend the process highly enough.