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Here’s how companies such as Levi Strauss, AT&T, and Nordstrom conduct a values discussion to resolve conflicts between people’s personal values and those of their team or organization. The result is behavior that expresses the desired values and workers’ commitment to company goals.
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), March 1998
By Dennis T. Jaffe, Ph.D. & Cynthia D. Scott, Ph.D.
Here’s how companies such as Levi Strauss, AT&T, and Nordstrom conduct a values discussion to resolve conflicts between people’s personal values and those of their team or organization. The result is behavior that expresses the desired values and workers’ commitment to company goals. How To Link PERSONAL VALUES With TEAM VALUES A round tables in a large meeting room, the 200 top worldwide managers of the largest divi sion of Levi Strauss were selecting their key personal values from a deck of 50 “values cards.” Each person arranged the cards according to his or her most important and least important values, and then placed his or her name card on the piles. Next, the whole group walked around the room looking at each array. People were amazed at the diversity of the values and at the range of values people selected as most impor- tant. They could begin to understand how the values lay behind each manager’s workstyle. Each table of participants then had a rich discussion on how their values led them to act the way they did at work. BY DENNIS T. JAFFE AND CYNTHIA D.SCOTTTraining & Development, March 1998
Next, people at each table came Robert Haas noted his philosophy in challenges. Values work is no longerup with a set of seven core values an interview in Harvard Business Re- a soft, fuzzy pursuit.that they felt should be adopted by view: “We’ve learned...that the soft Personal values provide an impor-the whole division. There were lively stuff and the hard stuff are becom- tant bridge to team values that every-debates about which ones were most ing increasingly intertwined. A one can commit to. Personal valuesimportant for their work and were company’s values—what it stands for, are real in that they help guideessential to continued high perfor- what its people believe in—are cru- people’s behavior. Thought of in thatmance. Each table then shared its pro- cial to its competitive success. Indeed, way, clarifying values can help teamsposed values with the whole group. values drive the business.” with the following key actions toA recorder wrote the common val- At Levi Strauss, a simple statement achieve excellence:ues on a flipchart at the front of the isn’t enough. Values are considered Motivate commitment. Values canroom and tallied the most frequently a living element and evolving foun- help employees find meaning andnamed ones. Next, a company leader dation behind every business deci- purpose in their work, care aboutshared his core values and the sion. Values exploration is not a one- what their companyis doing, and linkthoughts behind them. The whole time event, but a continuing process their individual efforts to those of thegroup then worked to develop a set in which people look at what is im- entire company.of shared values. Last, small groups portant and how that importance is Align action. With employees havingworked with each core value to cre- expressed in action. to make many complex decisions,ate a Values Statement that reflected values offer a set of guiding principles.their understanding and application Essence based Transcend individual conflicts. Valuesof each value to their work. We call an organization that is aware provide a language and way of un- Participants didn’t stop there. Many of and focused around its core val- derstanding individual differences.have used the workshop’s design and ues, vision, and mission an essence- They also help open the door forvalues cards to lead their own teams based organization. As we continue nonjudgmental acceptance of differ-in a similar values discussion. to live in a world of continual change, ent ways of doing things. Why is Levi Strauss, a company what can be constant and unchang- Values are powerful motivators. Theyknown for its strong values defined ing are an organization’s core values. represent an organizing principle forin a Corporate Aspirations Statement, A company that commits to defining people’s lives, as well as for organi-spending valuable management re- and leveraging its employees’ values zations.treat time looking yet again at per- is developing its strength and capa- The word value is defined bysonal and organizational values? CEO bility to meet future Webster’s as “a principle, standard, or A STARTING POINT ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ When we started to ask about key Self-development what they’ve done for and with oth- values, we found that some people The values in this category repre- ers. They seek contact and com- had difficulty coming up with a sent the search for personal chal- munity at work, and they value their comprehensive list. So, after many lenge, growth, and creativity. This standing with others. years of collecting lists of values, cluster is associated with experien- we created a values kit to help in- tial learning, inner-development, Continuity dividuals and teams sort their val- self-actualization, and challenge The values in this category focus ues. The following categories rep- seeking. People with these values on enduring qualities and maintain- resent the main areas in which we want to be involved in challenging, ing the status quo. Such values are have grouped our values search. meaningful projects that expand associated with an appreciation of their capabilities. They value new tradition—knowing where things experiences and personal develop- fit and how people will treat each Mastery ment activities. other—and with control and pre- Values in this category represent dictability. People with these val- individual pursuits, in which suc- Relationship ues don’t like surprises or things cess is defined in terms of mas- This values cluster represents people out of order. tery, status, power, and position. whose primary motivation is seen This value cluster focuses on in terms of developing personal re- People achievement in the world. People lationships, helping and working This cluster of values is about how motivated by such values seek vis- with other people, feeling part of a people feel they should treat oth- ible achievements and recognition group or team, and sharing experi- ers and the underlying principles from others. They want to be in ence. People with these values seek that guide personal relationships. positions of authority and seen as validation from others and define winners in competitive situations. their achievements in terms of Training & Development, March 1998
quality considered inherently worth- applies that value in an individualwhile or desirable.” The root for value way, learning new tips and actionsis valor, which means strength. Val- from colleagues continually. Thus,ues are a source of strength because one value leads to employees creat-they give people the power to take ing new ways to act on that value.action. Values are deep and emotional, However, because people value dif-difficult to change and often uncon- •Values work ferent things, gaining consensus aboutscious. key values is important for any group. Personal values change over time, is no longer Nordstrom employees at every leveljust as organizational values need to, a soft, must face customers, make costlybecause the environment people live decisions, and balance competingand work in is changing. One’s val- fuzzy priorities. Traditionally, consensus hasues adapt. Sometimes, people (mis- been achieved through strict proce-takenly) think of values as “shoulds” pursuit • dures and standards of behavior, un-on what to do and not do. Rather, der the control of supervisors. Now,values are energizing, motivating, and with employees’ greater empower-inspiring. When people care passion- for having a team talk about its most ment and autonomy, they need toately about something—in other important values and coming to con- be guided not by rules or a supervi-words, value it—they can spur them- sensus on those it supports. sor, but by an understanding of theirselves to great achievements. At work, as in other areas of life, organization’s most important values. If people all had the same values people assume certain basic values If a decision fits the values, then it’swith the same priorities, it would be exist, and they act on them. But rarely right.easy for them to work together in do they define them clearly or ques- A team’s values must also link togroups. But in most teams, there’s a tion them. Organizations must de- each member’s personal values. Adiversity of value and beliefs. To work termine their values and incorporate recent survey of 1,460 managers andbetter as a team and make decisions them into their policies, practices, and CEOs by the American Managementthat lead to commitment and action, standards for behavior. Company or Association suggests that understand-it’s necessary to recognize the range group values can motivate people ing that link can enhance corporateof values that can influence decision to act and focus their behavior in all vitality. The survey shows that whenmaking and to agree on their priority. of their activities. people’s personal values are seen as In conducting values workshops For example, Nordstrom asks em- congruent with their company’s val-with more than 200 organizations, we ployees to act according to one value: ues, their personal lives are better andfound that these core values come satisfying customers. Each employee they feel more optimistic about theirup routinely:* integrity* competence A REAL-WORLD TEAM VALUES STATEMENT ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○* teamwork A major outcome of the values re- vironment that supports team mem-* communication treat for the AT&T southwestern area bers cooperating to achieve our* autonomy management team was a values common goals. Our motto is “We,* creativity statement that included behavior that not me.”* personal growth. team members would expect to see Value: integrity. Act in line with the That gives us a picture of the kind more or less of if people were act- beliefs of your team, organization,of values people want to see reflected ing on each value. or other unit.in their workplaces. Such values sup- Value: personal growth. We en-port high performance. It’s powerful Here’s a look at the team’s state- courage people to take ownershipto see what happens when a com- ment: of their individual learning plans,pany or team tries to put those values Value: communication. Provide for which address their personal needsinto action, in its own unique way. open dialogue and the exchange and desires. of views. Value: achievement. Because weAccept no substitute Value: creativity. We’re committed value achievement, we commit toFirst, it’s essential for a team to clarify to a spirit of entrepreneurship and quick decision making, in whichits values. When team members col- the innovation of new ways to we win early and often, and to thelaborate on what’s most important to achieve success. imperative “Just do it!” with gutsthem, a shared commitment can Value: competency. We will embrace and courage.emerge. You can’t just give a team or competency enthusiastically, always Value: family. We recognize andan organization a values statement, seeking to share and gain knowl- acknowledge the importance of ouras some leaders try to. They can sug- edge at every opportunity. families and their contribution togest important values, but there’s no Value: teamwork. We foster an en- our success.substitute or short-cut Training & Development, March 1998
jobs. The lack of a relationship be- When teams and organizationstween employees’ values and com- take their employees’ values seriouslypany policies can be the breeding and strive to live by them, they send • Participants sawground for conflict and cynicism. The utilities company, Puget Sound an important message. They dem- onstrate that they’re ready not to ac- how different valuesPower, initiated a series of focus commodate everything employees were sometimesgroups to explore personal and or- want, but to at least reflect seriouslyganizational values. After looking at about their needs. That helps mint the root of workthe company’s core values, the the currency between individuals andgroups examined how those values an organization-trust and credibility. disagreements •linked to workers’ individual values. In addition, respecting employees’They found that employees felt pres- needs is likely to get them to help values on a large Values Map, whichsured to find personal time while their company respond to challenges. each team could display.achieving high work performance. And it makes it clear to current and One of the division goals was toIdentifying that stress led to explor- prospective employees what a com- create a virtual organization, in whiching ways to maintain work and fam- pany stands for. people worked in teams at widelyily balance. The values discussion dispersed locations. After the work-brought to the surface issues that in- Not just motherhood shop, each manager received mate-terfered with people’s commitment and apple pie rials and was encouraged to hold ato the company. Crucially, it then AT&T’s southwest area managers similar workshop with his or her team.helped minimize or overcome the held a workshop to explore personal In telephone interviews twoconflicts. and organizational values. The work- months following the workshop, par- shop used values as a framework to ticipants were still enthusiastic aboutHello, walls build commitment and alignment the results and gave specific examplesToo many companies and teams cre- between individuals, teams, and the of how it was useful. More than halfate values statements for the walls company. The expectation was that of the managers had implementedrather than to change behavior. When by generating shared values, teams (or were about to implement) thewe showed one management team would be better able to resolve day- values workshop with their teams. to-day hassles and act in ways that They reported the following key • Too many supported the entire company. benefits: As in the Levi Strauss workshop, * learning about each other companies and each manager defined his or her * understanding and respecting diver- personal values and shared them with sity and individual differences teams create values others. Then, the participants identi- * balancing different perspectives statements for fied values that defined high perfor- mance within their teams. After much * helping create a team * overcoming conflict between the walls • discussion, each team developed a people. team values statement of the behav- The managers felt that the best usea list of values, it asked where the list iors it wanted to see more of and of the values were with team mem-came from. We revealed that it was less of from team members. The val- bers who were in conflict or withfrom the team’s own executive re- ues weren’t just motherhood and whom managers were having diffi-treat the previous year. apple pie. Indeed, after agreeing on culty. The use of values enabled team A team or company has to specify the first four values, the group had a members to look at differences in athe kinds of behavior that would re- lively debate on the importance of nonjudgmental way and discusssult if people followed the identified second-tier values. The discussion working together more effectively.values. What would people try to do went beyond abstract statements toand not do? How can an organiza- specify exactly what each value How to conducttion reward such values? One com- meant. a values workshoppany had a value on teamwork, but The workshop led to a greater ap- We have created a format for a teamrewarded managers for individual re- preciation of people’s diversity. Par- to initiate a discussion of values, con-sults. Companies have to consider ticipants looked at each others’ key ducted by a trainer or an externalhow they may be making it difficult values and saw how different values consultant or by the team’s leader orto sustain values and what they can were sometimes the root of work manager. We prefer teaching manag-do to minimize the conflicts that re- Participants saw how different val- ers how to conduct such discussionssult from people’s personal values not ues were sometimes the root of work because we find that when a man-being the same as others’ values or disagreementsdisagreements. The ager takes time to participate, that’stheir organization’s. group placed its individual and team more likely to lead to real Training & Development, March 1998
change. It demonstrates that the * What do we stand for?leader is taking team values seriously. • Often, a team * How do we treat customers? The workshop can be held by one * What do we mean by ethical be-team or several at separate tables. has certain values havior?Each team can work on its own val- * What core values are more impor-ues statement or help define a set of it feels are esposed but tant to us than profits?values for the whole organization. not acted on • * How do we want to treat eachStep 1: Defining personal values. other at work?Begin with personal values. Because (their personal values) on how they * What do we offer employees forpeople have different values, that want to work together as well as the their work efforts?helps participants see how many dif- values for achieving organizational * How do we want to be seen by theferent priorities can exist. People can and team goals. outside community?identify their personal values with- After participants have sorted their * What employee attitudes and be-out further clarification, but we find personal values, they select five val- haviors do we want to reward?that listing common values on a ues they want expressed at work. At this point, each value must beflipchart or giving people values cards Because not all of their personal val- substantiated through one of two ac-gets more diverse ideas about what’s ues will be appropriate for the work- tivities. One, participants can exam-important. place, they should select ones they’re ine each value and discuss the be- A Personal Values Exploration starts willing to live by. Next, they take turns haviors they’d like or expect to seewith participants sorting their per- reading their number 1, most impor- more or less of if people expressedsonal values into the categories “very tant values, which a recorder puts that value at work. Two, they canimportant,” “somewhat important,” on a flipchart. If a value is already on create a statement that expresses howand “less important”—indicating how the chart, the recorder places a check the team or company views particu-central each value is in their work or after it. Participants continue in like lar values.lives. They may feel initially that all fashion until all values are recorded. Often, a team has certain values itof their personal values are equally The participants then list the val- feels are espoused but not acted on.important, but the purpose of the ues in descending order of impor- It might select which values it needsvalues sort is to indicate values in tance—from the one with the most to develop or which are expressedorder of their importance at that time check marks to those with no check but neglected. Then, team membersin their lives. They should try to think marks. The result is a prioritized list can identify ways they can practiceof specific examples of how each of team values. Participants can also such values within their group. Thatvalue applies to their lives. If they cluster some of the important values can be a deep and powerful discus-can’t think of specific examples, the that are similar and give the clusters sion, but it demands a high level ofvalue probably isn’t a high priority. names that combine the meanings trust and willingness to raise issues.Step 2: Sharing values with the of the values in them. Values are only one part of theteam. After participants sort their val- Step 4: Creating a charter of team renewal process in an organizationues, it’s time to share them with the values. Each team can now use its seeking employees’ commitment orteam. Each member places a name list of key values as a foundation for a new direction. Exploring individualtag at the top of his or her values list. discussion. It can discuss the key and team values is a critical founda-Then, the group walks around the values and ways that team members tion for major organizational change.room looking at everyone’s list, with- express them in their behavior. They A company must combine a valuesout commenting. Next, each partici- can ask which values aren’t expressed exploration with defining its visionpant chooses the person with the frequently enough or tend to be for- and mission. That leads to organiza-most similar values and has a discus- gotten—and which seem dispens- tional strategy and goals. A valuession with that person on those val- able or are neglected in times of pres- discussion is critical because it helpsues. The goal is for people to clarify sure. Such questions help team mem- clarify and align how a company willtogether which values are central to bers explore to what degree they reach its goals. It’s also a pathway fortheir shared work. actually live their values and which an organization to link its values withStep 3: Creating a team values are espoused but may be neglected employees’ personal values. That, incredo. In this step, team members or ignored. The team might identify turn, is the basis for employees’ com-work together to define their shared some behaviors of a member that mitment to the work of their organi-values. Taking off from the individual reflect a particular value, in order to zation. •values lists and an understanding of clarify the value’s essence and impli- ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○the diverse values in their team (or Dennis T. Jaffe and Cynthia D. cations. Scott are founding pricipals oflarger group, business unit, or orga- Here are some additional ques-nization), they now must come up Changeworks Consulting, 461 tions to consider in creating a team Second Street, Suite 232, Sanwith a statement of shared values values statement: Francisco, CA 94107-1416. Phone 415.546.4488 www.changeworksglobal.com Training & Development, March 1998