Fostering Excellence
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Values are the foundation of any company or organization. Values determine what, how and most importantly, why an organization does what it does. Organizations that do not have clearly articulated and well thought out values statements struggle to reach their optimal performance because they do not attract and retain a workforce who are committed to a common set of values. Employees who are worth their salt want more than just a set of tasks to complete, they want to be a part of something larger than themselves, something larger than a paycheck. Values help provide purpose and meaning to the tasks and end states organizations prosecute.

Values also help organizations make coherent decisions. Organizations with unarticulated values run the risk of having decisions made throughout the organization without any consistency. Incoherent decision making confuses employees, business partners and ultimately can confuse the customer. All decisions, from supply, marketing, and HR, should be made within the construct of clearly articulated values.

Values statements express for an organization those values that are most important to the organization. Remember, if every value is the most important, none of them are. Selecting a limited number of core values is important so that they can be an area of focus and synergy. Their focus can range from the experience of the customer and/or employee, to a public good (perhaps indirectly influenced), and to the relationship the organization has with the environment or community. Values can focus on why the organization does what it does, the positive impacts it is trying to effect, or how it does what it does (ex: environmentally sound or through fair trade practices).

Whatever your organization chooses to focus on, all value statements that are beneficial to an organization all share several attributes. Value statements should be articulated, focused, coherent, shared, and kinetic.

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Clearly Articulated Values – Values need to be written down if they are to be remembered and referenced.  Ensure your organization’s value statements are published everywhere, in newsletters, in break rooms, in letterhead etc. Ensure these values are readily available as a reminder of what, how and why your organization does what it does. The process of articulating value statements help refine those values, how they interact with business decisions, and can force healthy debates between senior leaders of what the values should be in the first place.

Focused Values – As stated above, an organization needs to have focus in their values; not every conceivable value can or should be adopted by an organization. Focusing everywhere means you are focusing nowhere. When reviewing which values your organization should adopt, reference your organization’s mission and vision statements. The values statements enable your long-term vision. While there can be no universal prescription for the number of value statements any given organization should have, it is generally better to have fewer rather than many to allow for focus.

Coherent Values – The values statements should be short and easy to read, but also understandable. One word value statements like “Quality” or “Service” lack the specificity to imply actions or frameworks for decision making. When employees know, for instance, that the organization values quality of product over volume of sales, this will empower them to make value-aligned decisions that benefit the customer and meet organizations values. When the value statement is incoherent, empowering employees to make value-aligned decisions is difficult, and stakeholders can be confused by ambivalent decisions by the organization at-large.

Shared Values – These values need to resonate with your organization’s members and be values that they also share. While it is conceivable that your selected values can be proselyted to your workforce, the task of building a workforce that shares common values begins with hiring. Great care should be taken to hire those individuals who are committed to your stated values. Hiring indifferent or ambivalent employees, vis-à-vis your values, will result in dissatisfaction and underperformance (and frustration with the new employee’s coworkers). On the contrary, hiring individuals who are passionately committed to the same values produces excellence, synergy and high job satisfaction.  

Kinetic Values – The values statements should interact with the real world. If the value statements do not inform budget or hiring decisions, do not influence promotions or workplace procedures and standards, the value statements are not valuable at all. Leaders should take care to ensure not only that the values are influencing their decisions, but also the decisions and performance of their organizations. Leaders should take time to explain their decisions within the context of the values statements, and encourage subordinate leaders to do the same. Recognizing superior commitment to the values is critical; ensure awards are going to employees whose performance exemplifies your organization’s values.


Products and Services

Leading an organization through focused, coherent and shared values is critical to any organization’s success. Clearly articulated value statements enable an organization to make consistent decisions in harmony with its core values. This leads to better stakeholder and public relations, better hiring decisions, and better decisions relating to your organization’s products and services. You will find greater passion in your employees and value-drive synergy in your organization’s teams. Whatever your organization’s values are, hammer them out on paper, ensure they resonate with where your organization is going (or should be going) and then ensure they inform the myriad of business decisions at every level of your organization. 

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.