What do the MPs expenses row and the Banking Crisis have in common? A set of rules being followed without a framework of values to inform peoples’ behaviour.
It’s striking how similar the two issues were. People saying they’ve done nothing illegal, done nothing wrong, simply following the rules. What is scary about this is how little contrition has been shown. The MPs still feeling hard done by and the Bankers going back to their old ways, paying themselves the huge bonuses as soon as they can.
When you see values informing behaviour it stands out. Three weeks ago Wigan Athletic lost 9-1 to Tottenham. This was a pretty humiliating defeat. The players (not the manager) volunteered to pay all their travelling supporters costs for travelling to the game. They were under no obligation to do so, they didn’t hide behind rules, they simply did the right thing. The following weekend they won, showing huge resilience and team spirit. This bounce back is not unconnected to their values driven behaviour.
Anderson Consulting were the biggest audit firm in the world, they were destroyed by the Enron scandal because they took the money rather than be true to their historic values of probity and integrity.
Organisations without values need lots of rules. And people in that environment without the coalescing force of values then set out to game the system (see MPs again). You will see compliance not commitment to change, box ticking not real engagement around reporting, people doing the minimum (always inside the rules), but always reluctant to mobilise their discretionary effort.
With clearly communicated values, consistently demonstrated by management you create a purpose driven culture, informed by bought into standards that are non-negotiable. This creates something to work and live up to, and reduces the need for extensive and onerous rules. Never forget, for somebody who wants to remain disengaged there is never enough rules, they will always find a way round them.