13th February 2015

5 Steps to bring your Organisational Values Alive!

When we look at quantifying how well values are lived within an organisation, we immediately run into the issue of trying to understand one dimension - i.e. an individual’s subjective experience of an event - using the methodologies of another - i.e. an “objective” measurement tool - when, in fact, these two “realities” are incompatible. It is analogous to trying to measure the value of a Van Gough by using a spectrometer …

When we are looking at how people live values, we are working with the subjective worlds of all involved, and each world is different. The difficulties arise because:

  • How I understand and live a value might be very different to how you do, due to our conditioning, experiences etc.
  • A behaviour that is totally laudable to me might be outrageous to you
  • I might honestly think I am expressing a value through my behaviours when, in everyone else’s view, I am not (the difference between self-perception and reality - the stuff of many coaching sessions!)
  • I might try to live a value as you live it, but we will both know the difference …


Sure, an individual or a group can create a framework and impose it on the rest of the population, but the fit will only be, at best, approximate and runs the risk of rejection and alienation by the population in question. It also runs the risk of inhibiting the very energy, creativity, openness and Adult-to-Adult relationships that you are trying to build – it becomes an imposed, restricting set of rules leading, eventually, to a form of organisational political correctness, hypocrisy etc. that only increases the “say-do” gap. We see this in many organisations.

Just as every individual is unique, so is every group. The need, and the opportunity, is to enable the group to develop its own frame of reference for the living of the values, against which it can the measure itself and its members. A very efficient way of assessing behavioural performance against espoused values is through the use of the Cultural Transformation Tools from the Barrett Values Centre, or it can be done on a simple “0 to 10” scale:

1. Individual members of a group “score” how they experience a value being lived from 0 (not at all) to 10 (could not be better)
2. Individuals provide behavioural evidence for their score - what they have seen or done - that exemplifies the value’s being lived or not
3. Identify through discussion definitions of what living and not living a value looks like that are grown out of the direct experience of the group
4. Create a behavioural framework for reference and use to create a common language and understanding of the desired behaviours
5. Integrate the behavioural framework into the performance appraisal and rewards system

Thus, an agreed, dynamic frame of reference is developed from the group’s experience against which it can measure itself. This is an organic expression of an “objective” reference from within the subjective experiences and developing understandings of the group - rather than an imposed structure from “above”.

This process also has the benefit of greatly enhancing the connections and understandings between group members ...

Posted by Jefferson Cann

We're proud to support: