In an earlier post, I asked why some CEOs make strategic and tactical decisions and behave in ways that go against their (or the organization’s) stated values.
My Hypothesis: BECAUSE THOSE VALUES DON’T WORK
Hmm…They don’t work? I don’t know, Julie, how can quality editorial as a value not work for a publication? How can “not being an a$$” as a value not work for a company culture?
Look, here’s my thinking: In order for a CEO to meet the herculean goals of remaining profitable they need to respond quickly and decisively to the problems at hand. If there seems to be something in the way (time and cost to produce content / namby pamby diplomacy) of meeting the new immediate economic challenges (speed and breadth of online competitors / getting a result NOW), the CEO should remove the offending obstacle (adherence to cumbersome quality standards / adherence to cumbersome respect for others) and move on.
Rebuttal: BUT ISN’T THAT TERRIBLY SHORT SIGHTED?
Yes! Tossing one’s organizational values aside to make way for short term results will negatively impact your company’s market value in the long run. It may even take you out entirely.
So what does a CEO do when the stated company values are perceived to conflict with the task at hand? Questions to ask:
1. Are they the right values for the organization?
- Be certain that values are expressed in deeds not words. Value statements that emerge from a half day team building offsite after swinging from trees and doing trust falls are not likely to be based in long term reality.
- Consider observing and cataloging what’s actually working in the organization. Things that you’d like to see continue or even have more of. Chances are, these are values already at work and they are the ones more likely to be recognized and adopted by incumbents. (Remember: Values that “work” are those that contribute to characterstics that positively impact market value).
- Has the internal or external environment changed such that the values you’ve had may have fallen out of alignment? Be brave. Look closely.
2. Are you disciplined enough as an organization to live your values?
- What’s the motivation to abide by the value set?
- Do people get away with not living them? (And if so, do they happen to be “indispensable, key revenue producers” to whom you just gave a healthy salary increase?) Be brave. Look closely.
3. What tools do managers have at the ready to resolve value conflicts (quality v. speed, integrity v. revenue)?
- Are managers and employees aware of the value set?
- Do they know what it looks like to uphold them? Are definitions clear (ie: what constitutes “quality”)?
- What happens when the value (being diplomatic and respectful) isn’t getting the job done?
Theory: CEOs (and therefore company cultures) will not walk the talk if the talk isn’t getting them what they need. However, the wise CEO will:
- HAVE VALUES THAT WORK IN THE FIRST PLACE
- BE DISCIPLINED TO WORK WITHIN A VALUE SET
- RECAST VALUES IF THEY DETRACT FROM INCREASING MARKET VALUE
And the wise HR strategist will:
- Coach (or help hire) a wise CEO and help determine and communicate the right value set.
- Provide structure by aligning HR and Organizational systems to living those values
- Produce HR strategy and deliverables that drive market value.