Why don’t most firms actually live up to the standards and values espoused in their mission statements? Because it’s one thing to say you believe in something; it’s another to be willing to be held accountable.
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NOTES FOR THE EPISODE:
Most companies have mission and vision statements, all of which stress client (or customer) service, teamwork and goals of “being the best place to work.” They are truly inspirational and, if implemented, would certainly lead to business success. However, what many companies misunderstand is that their standards and values are not defined by their aspirations (“We aim to be excellent”), but by what they are prepared to enforce.
One company, with a strong teamwork culture, had a senior professional whose recent book had received much public attention. Because of this public profile, the professional was bringing in significant revenues for the company, but he was operating in a way that was counter-cultural to the company’s teamwork approach.
At a meeting, I was trying to make the economic case for “enforcing” the basics of good project supervision. Everyone present agreed that if all professionals did this diligently, the company would achieve higher quality, eliminate inefficiencies, have more motivated juniors and (not inconsequentially) make more money. Yet most of the senior officers felt that their company’s performance in this area was only adequate, not excellent.
The missing element in the system is managerial courage. If a client (or customer) gives the company an “OK” score, the professional involved rarely hears from management.
What would it mean to have “real values?” It means much more than articulating desired beliefs.
Finally, I must report one fascinating result from my consulting work. When I’ve had the opportunity to use anonymous voting machines and asked the assembled professionals if they would support “this place” becoming less tolerant on departures from agreed-upon values (including a detailed description of what this would mean for their daily lives), the overwhelming majority vote “yes”.