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Thursday, 25 February 2016

Are business values to blame?

Personal values are often the topic for coaching sessions with individuals - mainly because they determine our motivation to do things, how we judge others, and why we get so frustrated with other people's behaviours. Topics that not unsurprisingly come up frequently in coaching sessions. More here on what those coaching conversations might sound like.

That is we are our values - what we stand for is demonstrated in our values, and if you want to know what I will and won't do look at my values, and the behaviours I believe meet these values/criteria.


Business values is a topic often discussed but, in my opinion, fails to align with personal values - there's more on why I think business values don't even exist on a previous blog.

In essence personal values determine why we do everything we do. Every behaviour - every decision - whether positive or negative - is determined by our values. So even the toxic leaders I wrote about earlier this month are doing what they're doing because of their values - or perhaps not just because of their values - but because of what they think they have to do to get their values met.

That's what's missing in business values - every behaviour and decision can't be assessed using most organisation's values statements. We can't look at most organisation's value statements and know what they're about because it's missing the fundamental reason organisations exist - to make money for their shareholders.

Let's look at Tesco for a moment - who last year were censored by the supermarket watchdog for their treatment of suppliers.

It's a little unclear from the web page I looked at but I think their business values are:
  • No one tries harder for customers
  • Understand customers better than anyone
  • Be energetic, be innovative and be first for customers
  • Use our strengths to deliver unbeatable value to our customers
  • Look after our people so they can look after our customers
  • Treat people how we like to be treated
  • All retailers, there's one team…..The Tesco Team
  • Give support to each other and praise more than criticise
  • Ask more than tell, and share knowledge so that it can be used
  • Trust and respect each other
  • Strive to do our very best
  • Enjoy work, celebrate success and learn from experience
The problem is most hard financial business decisions can't be made using these criteria alone? And if they were real values you should be able to - and you'd have a hierarchy telling you their relative importance in relation to each other.

That is an organisation could do all of the above and lose money but apparently that's ok because their values are being met, and their core purpose of 'creating value for customers to earn their lifetime loyalty' has been met as a result. It's irrelevant that Tesco might not be there for their lifetime. 

These business values would even question why Tesco even needed to increase payment terms in the first place? 

Which means there's other decisions that are being made that sit outside this 'warm fluffy' list of behaviours that has no scrutiny, no agreement, and where anything goes, and are likely to be more important than anything that makes it's way onto the values list!

And that's the problem with business values - there are decisions being made that sit outside the business values criteria, and as such mean I have no idea what sort of company I'm really dealing with!

Yes we could look at Tesco's previous treatment of suppliers and say it contravened 'treat people how we like to be treated' but the original decision to increase payment terms didn't need to use these criteria to obtain agreement.

I wondered about VW's Values
  • Social responsibility - For people  
  • Sustainability - Human rights, labour standards, environmental protection, combating corruption 
  • A spirit of partnership - Equality, humanity, fairness
  • "Pro Ehrenamt" volunteering initiative
Nothing there about the product they manufacture, the pricing, the customers, the shareholders etc. So lots of great stuff but nothing that tells me who they are as a company, nor why they do what they do and so on.

If you're still not sure what I mean here's Innocent Drinks values
  • Be Natural
  • Be Entrepreneurial
  • Be Responsible
  • Be Commercial
  • Be Generous
You might not agree with their every decision - especially if you're focussed and appreciated their Be Natural value, and would therefore prefer that it be their only focus - but at least it's honest about the decisions they make, and behaviours you might expect from them.

And Ben and Jerry's values statement goes even further and "operates on a three-part mission that aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to our business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbors alike" and covers:
  • Product mission - to make fantastic ice cream
  • Economic mission - sustainable financial growth
  • Social mission - to make the world a better place
Do your business values provide the criteria for every decision you make, or is unclear how the decisions you make daily fit into the corporate values statement?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

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