Management and growth guru Verne Harnish offers eight ways companies can bring their core values alive and shares a powerful process to help managers uncover what, exactly, are their company’s core values and how to implement them throughout their entire corporation to maximize communication and efficiency.
In building Verifone from USD 30 million to USD 600 million to dominate the global market of clearing credit card transactions, Hatim Tyabji said his key leadership/management tool was a small booklet that explained in eight languages the eight core values at the heart of Verifone’s culture and success. “I essentially spent the last six years repeating myself,” noted Tyabji.
What are your rules? Below are eight ways to bring these core values alive and a recommended process for “discovering” your true values if you’ve never committed them to writing. In essence, replace all the random “people” lists (hiring guidelines, performance appraisal criteria, recognition awards, etc.) with a coherent single list and simplify that part of your company.
FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS: THE MARS MISSION
I’ve seen firms spend tens of thousands of dollars and months going through a laborious process that often generates a generic list that misses the uniqueness and power of the existing culture. Alternatively, there is a way to get at your core values that’s fun and amazingly fast. It’s an approach outlined in Jim Collins’ and Jerry Porras’s article “Building Your Company’s Vision.” You can download the article from www.hbr.com for USD 6. Just follow their Mars Mission process. To give you a flavor for the core values of a growth company, the following are Gazelles’:
• Practice what we preach
• Nothing less than ecstatic customers
• 1st class for less
• Honorintellectual capitalists
• Everyone an entrepreneur
• Never, ever, ever give up
TECHNIQUES FOR BRINGING YOUR CORE VALUES ALIVE
Once you have your core values, it’s the “repeating” of and living “consistent” with the firm’s values that’s the most difficult part of the process. A leader must go beyond merely posting the values on the wall and handing out plastic laminated cards. Here are eight ways to keep these values alive and simplify your people systems.
STORYTELLING Everybody enjoys a good story and most great leaders have taught through parable or storytelling. Identify some “legends” and current stories that represent each value. And stories provide the explanation for any core values that might seem unusual or cryptic on their own.
RECRUITMENT AND ORIENTATION Design your interview questions and assessments to test a candidate’s alignment with your core values. Then rate the person in terms of their perceived alignment with each core value. Your goal, after all, is to make sure your new hires fit in. Once hired, it’s time to inculcate (bring into the culture) the individual. Like many social organization initiations, orientation (you do have one?) is when you can further emphasize the company’s core values. Consider organizing your orientation around the teaching of your core values.
APPRAISALS AND HANDBOOKS Core values should provide the framework on which you hang your performance appraisal system. With a little creativity, any performance measure can be made to link with a core value. In addition, organize your employee handbook into sections around each core value.
RECOGNITION AND REWARD Organize your recognition and reward categories around your core values. You also gain a new source of corporate stories and legends each time a reward or recognition is given that highlights a core value.
NEWSLETTERS Why struggle to come up with a catchy title for a newsletter when some word or phrase from your core values will do beautifully? Highlight a core value with each issue, incorporating stories – yes, more stories – about people putting these core values to work for the betterment of the company.
THEMES Use your core values to bring attention to your corporate improvement efforts. Milliken, the textile manufacturer, takes one of their six core values and makes it the theme for the quarter, asking all employees to focus on ways to improve the company around the theme. The Ritz-Carlton chain goes to the other extreme and highlights worldwide one “rule” everyday. In either case, establish a rhythm that keeps the core values top of mind in a repetitive fashion.
EVERYDAY MANAGEMENT I’ve found that managers and CEO s can almost repeat core values endlessly without it seeming ridiculous so long as the core values they’re using truly are relevant and meaningful to their employees.
When you make a decision, relate it to a value. When you reprimand or praise, refer to a value. When customer issues arise, by all means, compare the situation to the ideal represented the value. Small as these actions may sound, they probably do more than any of the aforementioned strategies for bringing core values alive in your organization.
This article was reprinted with permission from the author, who will be
speaking at the next Beijing EO meeting on Feb 29. You can read more of Verne Harnish’s articles at gazelles.com.