I used to think this was a really cute quote. I’m used to values being something the board decrees based on the culture they want, not the culture they have:
But I happen to be working at the moment with an organisation in which everyone I have (so far) spoken to agrees that their five values accurately describe their culture.
I’m finding this more than a little odd, but also helpful. In telling the company’s story of change I can for once genuinely refer to their values with a straight face and expect something to happen as a result. It’s a paradigmatic example of putting meaning “to work”. Because the connection exists between the symbol (i.e. the poster on the wall) and the experience, you can use it to make stuff happen, i.e.:
Hey guys, we know that we’re this type of people, so we need to respond to this situation in this kind of way
It actually means something!
Which is lovely. On the flipside, just because your regular corporate values poster doesn’t fit well with reality does not make it meaningless. Without wanting to flog a dead horse (though I do seem to be saying a lot about them of late), it doesn’t sound like Carillion was doing a great job of caring, improving, delivering and achieving together before it crashed:
I, like everyone else, judge the culture not by what I see on the poster but by how I see people behave. If the two don’t match then the only value that is conveyed to me is the organisation’s need to maintain a threshold level of background corporate waffle.
Been there anyone?