Culture, Vision and Business Values

I don’t think the world needs another blog on culture, vision and business values yet out of the 3 topics shared with me for this month’s features this one stood out. “Why is that?” I asked myself inquisitively. Here’s why I think this stood out.

Culture – a million definitions, a million plus variations. A uniquely crafted “way things are done around here” definition. Leaders are important in setting the culture. I can recall the turmoil when a new leader wanted to create a different cultural feel and flow to a place: People rejoiced and rebelled in equal measure. It seems there is a pretty undeniable link between the most senior leader and the culture of an organisation.

Vision – that all-important rallying call to future success. That defining t-shirt emblazoned slogan of corporate patriotism and utopian bliss. Set by the most senior leader – often in consultation with consumers/customers, employees, shareholders, members etc. Used by the leader as a magnetising force for all activities and efforts to lead to success.

Business Values – sometimes short sentences of “what we value here and why” sometimes a collection of words – Trust; Integrity; Transparency. Often agreed by the most senior leader (or leaders) and constructed by poll, consensus, workshops and card-sorting exercises.

Nothing wrong in any organisation defining its culture; creating its vision and setting out its business values. Any MBA or decent business skills programme will teach you that.

Yet I deliberately mentioned the most senior leader’s role in all 3. If not the architect, then the shaper. If not the creator, then the ordainer. If not the instigator, then the finaliser.

History shows us great leaders – even if they had megalomaniac tendencies – all use these elements. They will rouse action through the exposition of the culture – who we are. They will set out a dream destination – where we’re all headed. They will show what’s needed to get there – how our values will make it happen.

So it is in the world of work and how important these 3 things are for HR to do its “thing”.  Culture helps recruit and select people for the company’s best interests. Vision to set the priority activities that will deliver success and indeed, what that success looks like in performance agreements and bonus package criteria. Values, to define the behaviours which will see us connect, cooperate and compete to see the vision come to be.

HR as translator. HR as systematiser. HR as operationaliser.

So you’re the HR team in a flailing retail company. You’re gifted the definitions of the culture, vision and values that will get you back to success. And you think they’re emulsion over crumbling brickwork.

So you’re the HR team in a blossoming tech enterprise. You’re passed down the un-inspiring, cliche-strewn, “disruptive” bag of spanners and told to make the sexiest company image you can.

So you’re the HR team in a hard working, under pressure, highly challenged not-for-profit and the leadership team just don’t have time for all this nice stuff. We need to raise some funds now and recruit another FD.

None of this is easy. No-one has it nailed totally. Yet we think it’s either hire some consultants; take some insight from the employee survey or cut and paste from Apple/Tesla/Google/John Lewis.

Culture. HR as sociologist and behavioural psychologist to the leadership team. When you behave like that, it create this. Is that what we want others to become?

Vision. HR as growth hacker and human quantum energy assessor. Is this where we want to be going leaders and are you inspiring our people to give of their best?

Values. HR as critical friend and behavioural impact monitor. Do you – and therefore all our people – live, shape and enhance who we are with what we do with what we have?

If everyone’s playing around with culture/vision/values these days then it’s perhaps HRs role to be the contrarian; the sense-checker; the teller of the truth.

HR as the child who call’s out the Emperor’s New Clothes?

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