Values – How They Underpin Everything An Organisation Does

In building an effective Purpose Framework how you approach Values is critical to get right. Below we summarise the main points:


  1. Culture is expressed values. Values are the basic building block of what it feels like to work in a particular organisation. If you want to change the culture, change the values.
  2. A values driven organisation needs fewer rules, its values act as a touchstone for guiding peoples’ actions and behaviours.
  3. Values are not ‘common sense’, or ‘unnecessary because we all have values’. An organisation without clear values will not be able to offer any kind of ethical, contextual or behavioural framework. Whilst your personal values may be obvious to you they are not obvious to me. See MPs expenses for more context.
  4. Distilling them down into five or six maximum is a good idea. Ten or more values is too many for people to carry round in their heads.
  5. The whole focus should be on the behavioural expression of those values. You are not making a personal comment on an individual’s values, but on their visible behaviour – either positively or negative, as it relates to your values. The key here is to develop behavioural indicators.
  6. You are not asking people to leave their personality at reception and become an organisational clone, indeed one of your values might speak to originality or creativity. An organisation does not have dominion over what people think or feel, but it can motivate people to behave in certain ways and proscribe behaviours it deems unhelpful or antipathetic to building its vision.
  7. Values must always be viewed as a set. Never allow selective quoting, and never play ‘top trumps’ where one value is viewed as being superior to another.
  8. A values-driven organisation feels inclusive, people are more positive about giving their discretionary effort, customers notice the difference.

See Vision and Goals for the other two components of an effective Purpose Framework.