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  • Writer's pictureScott McInnes

Values are Irrelevant Without Strategy

Values are irrelevant without a well communicated strategy.

I was running some client workshops last week and a participant said something that really got me thinking. We were chatting about company values and supporting behaviours and they said, “I don’t know where we’re going as an organisation anymore, so what’s the point in having values?”

Eh, there isn’t any point.

It was Lewis Carroll who said, “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there”.

Any road, any activities, any initiatives, any values. A bit of a free-for-all.

Without purpose, vision and strategy – a destination - to guide you and your teams, it’s a bit like a rowing race with no lane markers and no finish line. The gun goes off and it’s utter carnage as the boats roam all over the place, crashing into each other and not getting anywhere fast (in fact it’s often what sailing races look like to the uninitiated!).

It was almost a throwaway comment made in frustration but, it’s so, so true. Yes, values describe the way we do things around here, but in pursuit of what? Where are we going? Why are we going there? And how will we get there?

Without answers to those fairly fundamental questions, it’s hard to argue why you need values at all

We’ve been through a lot of change in the past 18 months and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. So maybe, before you start thinking about your values (which you should constantly review, by the way), it’s worth asking yourself, ‘Does my team and other teams across our organisation understand our strategy and the part they each play in achieving it?”. And maybe, “Are our leaders telling a consistent version of our strategy to their people?”

Or perhaps the first question needs to be “Have we communicated our strategy at all?”

Because if you’ve answered no to any of these questions, you might as well be a cox in one of those rowing boats I mentioned earlier, along with your coxswain colleagues, directing your boats all over the place.

Getting your people aligned is about communicating your strategy in a way that really resonates with them – that isn’t sector breakdowns, EBITDA and competitor analysis (which are important btw – just not to the average person who works for you).

It’s about WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, how you’re going to do it and how it’s going to feel (yep, FEEL) for people when you get it right. A corporate narrative can really help here – we can help with that by the way – you can read about Inspiring Stories here.

Once you’ve got that nailed, THEN it’s time to think about the values, about how you’re going to get there, what you hold yourself and each other to account for every day (oh, we can help with that too 😊)

So yes, it is important to think about values, but don’t bother until you’ve got everyone in the boats, in their lanes, all pointing at the finish line.

If you think an Inspiring Story might help you to connect your people to your company strategy then give us a shout. We did one for the Institute of Banking and it was really well received.


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