In the January 24 post we talked about what it takes to have your company values really be alive, have them be expressed in people’s actual behaviours. I promised that I would say more about the four areas to attend to in managing the creation and maintenance of a values-based culture, namely:
STRUCTURES: Such as meetings/agendas/emails/schedules etc.
PROCESSES/SYSTEMS: Such as performance management process/CRM/On boarding etc.
AGREEMENTS: Formal (such as contracts) and informal (everyday promises and requests).
STRATEGIC AREAS OF FOCUS: Areas that if focused upon will enhance the organisation’s capacity to operate true to its values.
To have your company’s values be powerfully in existence requires rigorous management and reinforcement on the part of you and your fellow leaders until the foundation of your organisation’s culture is it’s values. As a leader you create the culture of your organization, period.
Supporting that management and reinforcement, both from an individual and organisational perspective, is what these four areas are about. In this post we’ll look at the first two – STRUCTURES and PROCESSES.
I will start with bringing clarity to what I mean by structures by looking at the definition of processes and systems. A process or system can be defined as ‘a systematic series of actions directed to some end; a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner’. Large organisations need many processes, and those processes often need to be adapted over time as the business changes. Many processes are developed from a requirement for compliance and order; but they could also be designed from supporting the company’s values. One very large global Australian company has a value of Simplicity. When they started to rigorously look at the processes in their organisation from that value what they saw was that simplicity was definitely missing! As a consequence of redesigning their processes to be consistent with Simplicity they are transforming their organisation.
So what I don’t mean by Structures is a series of activities that are strung together in a systematic way to deliver on some final output like the process used for invoicing, payroll or hiring people etc. What I do mean is the structures that people use to manage the multitude of commitments, conversations and activities they have. Those kinds of structures include meetings, agendas for those meetings, minutes from meetings, email, electronic and paper scheduling and diarising tools, task lists, files, reading materials, reports, letters, memos, checklists, training activities and programmes, coaching etc.
These structures are, in the main, things we are using or interacting with frequently and are therefore goldmines for managing the existence our company values – both as an individual and a company.
From a corporate perspective, a communications team can be used to review the standard communications materials that the company uses to establish whether or not they reflect and empower the corporate values. This goes beyond mere branding to looking at whether forms, agendas, strategy templates and reports etc. are designed in a way that promotes, for example, values such as collaboration, simplicity, accountability or integrity.
From an individual perspective, as a leader in the organisation, you want to be be looking at your structures to see whether what you are using and how your are using them reflects the company’s values and supports you in living true to them. For example, are you preparing an agenda looking from the values or just doing what you have always done? If you look at an agenda as an opportunity to engage with a group of colleagues or reports in a way that would truly reflect the values, what would you include in that agenda that you have never included? Do you use your schedule to ensure that you are being fully responsible for everything that you need to manage or only as a place to store appointments? Do your emails reflect your values, have you fully considered the impact on others of what your are writing or are you unconsciously emptying your mind or responding quickly without consideration? Do you have a coach? Are you using the coaching to develop your capacity to authentically live the company’s values?
Your structures and how you use them say a lot to others about who you are, particularly they say a lot about your authenticity with respect to your company values. When you put a regular meeting in place but keep moving it because of circumstances with little or no explanation, you are communicating something to others.
Is what you are communicating with your structures consistent with your company’s values and are your company’s processes a demonstration of those values?