Finding genuine core values

The ethos applied in the running and the management of the organisation will impact the implementation and the realisation of the strategic mission and vision respectively. Unfortunately, many managers simply look around for big words and expressions to present as organisational core values.

In any organisation, core values must define behaviour at work reflect the internal belief systems. They must be alive to the intent of the organisation, and will only have the desired result if they are appreciated and internalised by all the concerned stakeholders.

Genuine core values are shared and are functional. They create conviction, loyalty and unity of purpose among staff. They help employees, together with their leaders, to make quick decisions when a difficult or unfamiliar situation arises.

So, what constitutes a core value? The following questions should guide you in stringing together some:

  1. Is it a collective belief?
  2. Does the top management support it?
  3. Is it simple and clear?
  4. Does it set an acceptable behaviour at the workplace?
  5. Does it set a high standard of work?
  6. Will it be noticeable if it isn’t followed?
  7. Can it stand the test of time?

Globally, high performing organisations maintain between two to four core values, designed to promote the core business of the organisation.

For example, a software development company would have its core values around issues of innovation and flexibility. A delivery company, such as one offering courier services, would design its core values around speed and responsiveness. A manufacturing firm would find relevance in ideals that promote focused use of resources, integrity and creativity, while a research institute would see special importance in teamwork and collaboration.

The development of good and relevant core values is a team exercise. A set of managers may be assigned the task. Each member of the team should list down the values they would like to see the organisation upholding. They each lists as many genuine values as they can come up with. This is step One.

Step Two then involves the team converging to discuss, debate, evaluate and analyse each other’s list of values. It is during this phase that the team condenses the number of the proposed core values to a desirable set. Granted, there will be some similar propositions from different people. Those that are agreed upon can be merged and repackaged.

This exercise will result in a first draft of the core values. These are then shared with the organisation’s key stakeholders for feedback and additional input before the final value statements are coined. These statements must be judiciously crafted because they will ultimately drive a certain collective behaviour in the organisation.