Chapter 26Values Schmalues

Conventional wisdom is that every company needs a set of corporate values that will not only look rather fetching adorning the Annual Report, but will also lay the foundation for every client interaction and employee behaviour.

Conventional wisdom is not always right.

Companies spend untold sums engaging their workforce in coming up with a list of prospective qualities that are eventually narrowed down to a list of half a dozen pithy words, heavily laden with meaning. A separate paragraph is then written for each ‘Value’ to explain the meaning of the word in the context of the organisation. Each of these paragraphs is edited several times before they are all sent to the graphic designers, and finally every screen, mouse mat, coffee mug and spare wall is adorned with these shiny new Corporate Values. They are ‘embedded’ into the HR appraisal system and every employee is told they must have a personal objective that reflects each one of these wonderful new corporate principles.

And then, to plagiarise my favourite Monty Python quote yet again, all of a sudden … nothing happens. Why?

Because we humans don't work like that. We are free-thinking and independently-minded individuals with values of our own. We may not have workshopped them with our friends and handed them out as Christmas cards, but each of us has our own views of what is wrong and what is right.

By the way, using corporate values as titles for appraisal objectives does not, in any way, shape ...

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