In my last blog I shared a couple definitions of organizational culture, and wrote about how culture impacts organizational performance. Click here to view the definitions. In this entry, I would like to focus on the importance of your culture’s vision & values. From my perspective, they constitute the foundation of any corporate culture.
An organization’s vision & values are defined by the organization’s leaders and are enduring attributes of the culture. These attributes don’t change over time and are part of what I’ll call the living culture of the firm. Our vision defines what type of business we are in, the type of client we desire, and type of staff member we want to employ. Our values define how we want to run our business and ultimately the satisfaction we derive from it. Alignment of our leadership team and ultimately our entire organization around our vision and values is critical to the consistent execution and ultimate success of our business strategies.
Defining an ‘aligned’ vision with a leadership group can be very difficult, but is a critical driver of performance. Consider the opposite of an ‘aligned vision’ – complete misalignment. When leadership has a common vision and is in alignment, everything clicks. They speak from the same page when dealing with clients and staff, everyone knows what a ‘mission statement’ client looks like, policies and procedures are administered consistently and communication is crystal clear. Sound like utopia not built in reality? Maybe, but I think it’s worth striving for. If you’re like me, the success and development of your staff is a major area of concern for your organization and without an aligned vision, you can’t attain either.
How do you want to do business? The values you bring to your organization and your ability to align those values, within your leadership team and among your staff, will drive your contentment with your business. Profits are important, but living the life we desire may be more important. If your culture is out of alignment with your values, corporate life will be miserable and so will you! Since you can’t do everything yourself, you must delegate tasks to your leadership team and they must execute those tasks in alignment with the desired value system. For example, if you value high levels of service to your customers, you need your staff to reflect these values in their actions. In order for your staff members to learn and demonstrate high levels of service, your leadership team must demonstrate this value and then communicate, train, hire and retain staff in line with this value. Imagine an organization where there is no alignment of values or where no one polices the culture to maintain that values are upheld. You will quickly find yourself swimming in a sea of chaos where your staff does not even know that a high level of customer service is important to you.
In summary, your organization’s culture is your organization and its vision & values are critical elements of your culture. Your vision depicts why your organization exists and your values are rules of the road for operating your business. Alignment of these elements from top to bottom is crucial to the success of your organization.
More on gaining alignment in my next blog.