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Very often Vector Group’s client organizations call upon our consultants to help them either establish or review their organizational values. What is the importance of “organizational values” you might ask? On the surface to most business people, organizational values seem soft, squishy and irrelevant to daily business operations. Our strongly held view is that organizational values provide needed direction and are equally as important as the business strategy itself.
Most companies have a clearly defined mission that states in certain terms what the company does. Many of the more enlightened organizations also have a vision that clearly describes the future. Organizational values flow from the vision and represent what the company believes to be important in achieving that future. Some vision statements readily gain the imagination and the passion of the organizational members. It is smart business to “capture the hearts and minds” of the people expected to carry out the organizational mission. Unfortunately, other vision statements often look very much like “design by committee.” The drafting of the vision statement often contains numerous platitudes of values relating to inclusiveness, respect for the employees, teamwork, love of the customer, etc.
This all sounds good but a “pretty” framed mission, vision and values statement found in the reception area of a company does not mean a whole lot unless those values are “brought to life” by developing some behavioral descriptions of what those values “look like.” What does the organization observably do on a daily basis in terms of inclusiveness or respect for employees, teamwork, or love of the customer? The organizational practices are the embodiment of the values.
When we work with a client to either create those values or review them to ascertain if they support the mission/vision, we take them through an additional process of building typical organizational behavioral practices that best represent those values. It is much more effective to have the organizational members (management and staff) create those practices themselves. For example, what does teamwork really look like here? When they create the behavioral practices using their own words in their own organizational language, people more easily recognize the more meaningful and needed behavior to accomplish strategic intent.
In our successful turnaround effort for a UK-based sales organization, the managing director had already developed a list of seven values critical to the company’s success. We facilitated the process to help them develop the behavioral practices that supported (represented) those values. Here are those values and practices:
CUSTOMER DRIVEN—Doing the things that would make customers choose us
• Treats every customer as they would like to be treated
• Tailors and personalizes our service to exceed customer expectations
• Accepts individual responsibility in supplying a solution for a customer from inception to conclusion
WORKING TOGETHER—Success comes through effective collaboration
• Promotes a team culture
• Creates an environment where people share views, expertise and best practice
• Works with those holding different views in a constructive manner
• Works to achieve common goals and beat the competition
COMMERCIAL AWARENESS—We drive our decisions by the commercial dynamics of our business
• Ensures all actions and decisions support the long term goals
• Understands the impact of external influences on our work
• Uses benchmarks to ensure commercial success
• Ensures that everyone understands the economics of our business
• Takes personal responsibility for wise use of resources
SPIRIT—We will value individuals for their flair, energy, passion and pride
• Motivates and inspires everyone to be players
• Encourages and rewards boldness and innovation
• Leads and acts in a way that drives our vision
DEPENDABILITY—Do what we say we are going to do
• Proactively identifies and overcomes any barrier
• Exhibits a “can do” approach
• Demonstrates personal commitment and ownership to achieving the recognized goals and actions
• Informs others as soon as it becomes apparent that an expectation cannot be met
QUALITY—Doing the right things and doing things right
• Seeks opportunities to make continuous improvements in operating methods, results, and costs
• Demonstrates high personal standards of ethical behaviour and integrity
• Sets customer driven standards
• Delivers results to which the industry will aspire
HONESTY AND OPENNESS—I will listen to what you say and tell you what I think
• Consistently puts the needs of the business ahead of personal agendas
• Creates an environment where trust and honesty are evident throughout the business without fear of reprisal
• Provides opportunities where the exchange of views is encouraged and valued
• Supports and encourages actions based upon varied viewpoints
Behavioral practices are observable and therefore, measureable. In order to encourage the day-to-day display of these behaviors, there must be some way of building in accountability and we do that by the custom design of a 360° feedback survey for management. Including those twenty-seven practices just mentioned, we added another three General practices for the survey:
• [This Company] would be a better place if more people behaved like this manager
• Exhibits a sense of urgency to get things done today rather than later
• This manager exemplifies the vision and values of [This Company].
The 360° feedback process for management includes ratings from self, boss, peers and direct reports. Using an ipsative array of the findings allows the manager to be rated on his or her behaviors in his or her specific environment (business reality) rather than a comparison with a homogenized group of managers from a plethora of different organizations as part of an off-the-shelf survey.
When changing culture, values and practices must be established to carry the organization forward. Moreover, the critical element in culture change or an organizational transformation is the recognition and reward of the new behavior. Not only management but staff, too, needs to take personal responsibility to move in the new direction and behave as needed to deliver organizational results.
Values at Vector Group, Inc.
We have some organizational values at Vector Group, too, which have been in place for a number of years and serve to direct and guide our company. Our four basic values describe clearly under what conditions we take on new clients and what we hope will transpire. We measure any business opportunity against them. They are:
Can We Help?
Do we have the capability by expertise, resources and experience to help this client in this situation? Would other practitioners that we highly trust, value and could recommend better serve this client?
Can We Learn?
Will this situation not only contribute to the growth and new learning for this client but for us as well? Secondarily, can experiences learned in this client situation contribute to the body of knowledge within the field of human and organizational performance? Can we develop new approaches based on this client’s unique situation that will move the organization forward?
Can We Have Some Fun?
Will we enjoy working with this client in this situation and industry, with these people and in the required geographic locations? Is a partnering relationship possible with this client? (Partnering is defined as establishing mutual goals, maintaining openness and respect while assuming shared risk.) Is this client ready, willing and able to move forward with this commitment or must we drag the client along “kicking and screaming?”
Can We Make a Profit?
Will we make a fair return on our investment of time, energy, resources and effort? Can we deliver more than expected, exceed client expectations and have the client reasonably pay us for our services?
Vector Group, Inc. is a values-led organization and we strive to live the following practices and model these behaviors in our work with our clients:
All the above describes our behavior with our client organizations but what about the values within our own company? Even though the company dates back to 1984 with most of us working together for over twenty-five years, we have yet to list the actual values and practices that drive our internal behavior for those many years. I associated with our firm in 1989 and I knew from the initial discussions the values ascribed to by the partners and I have upheld them for almost 26 years. We find our professionalism and our representing the best of our field reflects in our values.
Our primary play is with our principals. If we keep our partners happy, we know the client will be happy. We hold ourselves to an exceedingly high standard that other firms may not do. As principals of the firm, we model the following values and practices with each other:
In revisiting our basic four core values and sharing those, we now not only have a clear list of Vector Group’s espoused values and practices but the real ones that we continue to integrate with our business and with each other. Having personal values resonate with an organization’s values is truly a good thing. When that relationship exists, magic can happen. What are your organization’s real values and do they echo your own? We hope they do.
©Vector Group, Inc., 2015
Gary W. Craig is Managing Partner and COO for Vector Group, Inc. You may reach him at email@example.com. Vector Group is a global consulting firm specializing in systematic organizational diagnosis and interventions to ensure that corporate strategy, culture, and infrastructure are aligned to achieve breakthrough success. Visit our website at http://www.vectorgroupinc.com or call us at (800) 566-0877.