“You cannot consistently perform in a manner which is inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” – Zig Zigglar
Not only is this true for individuals, but it is also true of organizations. This is why so many initiatives or programs implemented by management fail. Oh sure, maybe there is a bump in customer service scores, sales, cooperation, or some other metric in the short term, but the success is usually short lived. Why?
Organizations, like individuals, have personalities. Those personalities are driven by behaviors. Those behaviors are based upon core values of the organization – the true core values. These may or may not be in alignment with what is posted on their web site and printed on the back of their business cards. If they are not in alignment, the tension set up by this inconsistency will always be relieved in the direction of the true values of the organization.
Isn’t this true in our own lives? How many of us know we should have some sort of exercise regimen in order to be healthier? So we get started. We join a club or buy some DVDs, right? Then what happens? Things go well for a couple of weeks at most; then we fall right back into our old routine. This is because we haven’t bought into the core value of being physically fit. Sure, intellectually we know it is what we need to do. However until we own that core value, until that becomes part of who we are, we will not change.
Do you see the implication for organizations?
While organizations can change, they must first get real with where they are. Forget the lofty platitudes professed as the core values. The organization’s leadership needs to examine their true core values. What values do their current actions support?
Patrick Lencioni, best selling business author, says “An organization knows that it has identified its core values correctly when it will allow itself to be punished for living those values, and when it accepts the fact that employees will sometimes take those values too far.”
Part of the “punishment” Lencioni mentions must include the willingness to change any member of the organization not willing to live the core values. That does not mean everyone will always live them perfectly, but all team members must be willing to be held accountable. If a particular team member is having to be “held accountable” too often, then there is a misalignment of values between the individual and the organization, and it’s time for that individual to go. Both the organization and the individual will be happier.
If you want an effective, high performing organization, the core values of the organization must be clearly identified, communicated, communicated (yes, I said that twice), and the organization must act in a way consistent with those values even if when it’s not politically or socially convenient.
If this sounds too strong, I challenge you to think about the last time you tried to implement a change or improvement initiative in your organization. How did that work for you? If it didn’t work out too well, it may have been due to a misalignment with the organization’s true core values.