Do Your Operational Values Truly Reflect What Your Organization Stands For?

Determine whether your stated values are also your operational values.


Do Your Operational Values Truly Reflect What Your Organization Stands For?

You probably have your written corporate values posted on your website, your Intranet, and somewhere on the walls of your workplace.

But what about your operational values: that is, how people truly operate within your organization?

Do your two sets of values align?

To figure it out, here is a fun and compelling way that you, a business leader, can determine whether your stated values are also your operational values—in other words, whether your organization truly reflects those words on the wall.

  1. Consult colleagues and team members one-on-one. Ask them to tell you about one of the finest moments they can remember within the history of the organization—for example, when they or another person or team did something extraordinarily well. For example, someone may tell you about a time they were behind on a project and a colleague stepped in to go the extra mile to ensure an important client’s need was met—demonstrating incredible customer service to deliver on a promise.
  2. Collect 10 of these stories. No less than 10. The more, the better.
  3. Review and analyze. Ask yourself, “What do these 10 stories tell me about the DNA of the company? What are the key themes that emerge from these stories?” Those key themes are your operational values.
  4. Compare. Once you’ve determined your operational values, compare them against the written values and see if there is alignment. For example, at Juice, one of our values is to “create simplicity and ease”—when we deliver our training materials to participants, we want to make sure the process and our material is easy to grasp and apply. So we are constantly looking for feedback and stories from our customers that reflect that value; if we did not, it would be clear that the way we operate is not the way we present ourselves on paper.
  5. Take next steps. Now is the time to make a decision: do you want to close the gap between both sets of values by encouraging a change in organizational behavior? Or do you want to change your stated values so they reflect the true nature and values of your organization?

So why is this important?

Before you start thinking this is a make-work project with little value (pardon the pun), consider my own personal experience a couple decades ago.

Long before co-founding Juice, I was part of a team of four for my employer, working for sales. It was a fledgling company and we needed sales—my eye was always on that ball.

One day a particular project had to be carried out, everyone was scrambling, and most of my colleagues were dropping their regular duties to help out. As for me, I stuck to my guns: sales were important, and so I continued to focus on sales that day.

The next day, my leader met with me, wanting to know why I didn’t step in to help when help was so desperately needed. I said that I was helping: by focusing on sales. His words? “You’re absolutely right. Sales do matter, and you should be committed to that. But one of the values of our organization is Team First. If something like this happens again, I need you to put the team first ahead of your own agenda.”

I never forgot that lesson.

The beauty and value of this exercise will help you remove any “noise in the system” and help align your behaviours with your operational values, not to mention improve communication and productivity. You will create a more congruent workplace culture that everyone can refer to and agree on. Trust me: people notice the difference!

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