Leadership · Organizational Development · Personal Competencies

Got Values? Are They Known/Lived?

Several months ago a CEO at one of the companies I work with read, “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. The next step was to attend a seminar based on the tenants of the book. As a result, the owners of the company decided to revamp the company values.

As advised, a small team of employees was selected to submit ideas for revamping the company values. Currently the company values are an acronym based on the company name, each letter representing a value. In the current format, the list of values is too long for employees to remember and recite in moments when the values could drive decisions and actions.

The company has dedicated significant effort to defining the behaviors associated with the values, and those behaviors are included in job descriptions and measured in 30, 60, 90 day reviews as well as annual reviews – great work! Above average in comparison to many companies! Once the values list is shortened, this work will be easier.

I was asked to facilitate the creative process for the values team. I’m following a process I’ve used many times for other creative processes that ultimately require consensus from a core group of people. I start broad, giving people the opportunity to submit “blue sky” ideas hopefully unfiltered by too many requirements or provided examples. Then the ideas move through a selection process that includes “workshop” time, giving the team opportunities to fine tune ideas before presenting to the leadership team.

  1. Set the stage for creativity: have the team establish and agree on the criteria for any ideas they will bring to the next meeting. In this case some criteria was already provided for us.
    • Memorable: a word or phrase can be submitted as our values statement. No more than five behaviors should be assigned to the word or phrase so everyone can memorize them and use them in any moment.
    • Representative of desired culture
    • Encompasses known values and those we want to incorporate
    • Meaningful/Motivational – no passive words in list
  2. Meeting 2: one idea per sheet – all ideas hung on wall. In the first pass, we will eliminate half of the ideas. People will initial the ideas they think should move to the next round. For example, if we have 20 submissions, each participant will initial 10 ideas.
  3. The next round requires each idea to pass additional criteria which will be printed on cards I give to them. (Based on Chapter 6 of, “Scaling Up”) Does the concept work for practical application in daily activities?
    • If we (insert slogan or word) right now, what should we do? What should we not do?
    • When you read (slogan/word), are our rules, boundaries, and culture implied?
    • Are we confident the behaviors associated with this slogan/word are powerful enough to guide future decisions?
    • Do the behaviors associated with this slogan/word provide a framework for measurable behaviors (30,60, 90,180 day reviews, Performance Management Worksheets, and evals)
    • If a front line employee’s supervisor or manager was not available for consult, would the behaviors associated with this slogan/word provide direction toward right action?
    • Can you picture us at our annual employee luncheon listening to coworkers sharing stories about team members that represent the values associated with this slogan/word?
  4. In the next round I reiterate an important guideline: view the submissions literally and conceptually. Literally – the way it is presented. Conceptually – can it be edited to more powerfully represent the previous criteria?
  5. Is there any idea that most closely aligns with our current messaging?
  6. Is there any idea that is especially exciting when you think of it on our shirts, hats, and published materials?

Although I have a solid plan, I stay completely open to ideas from the team. I love those, “Hey, could we…?” moments.

At the end of the second meeting, the team decides next steps:

  • Take another week for creative thinking and fine tuning the existing ideas?
  • Another round of voting at the next meeting?
  • Presentation planning for meeting with managers.
  • Other ideas/suggestions from the team.

Everyone on the team knows the submitted ideas may or may not be used exactly as presented. The owners may use, build on, or change the ideas.

I am impressed and excited about two ideas that have already been shared with me!

Concept 1:


  • We are motivated to focus on customers
  • We see the opportunity in every issue
  • Job safety is our way of putting family first (family is a core value at this company)
  • We are open to new ideas

Concept 2:

Be Your Best

If everyone strives to be their best every day, all of our values and skills will merge to benefit customers and each other.

I can completely picture either of these ideas having a powerful impact on the positive and healthy growth of the organization. In any moment, if an employee is struggling, they can say to each other, “What would your BEST look like in this situation?” or, “I’m asking you to be your best in this discussion.”  Other examples that come to mind include, “You almost got hurt right there. If you were in your MOJO, what would you have done differently?”

I can’t wait to see all the ideas that will come from this excellent group of people!

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