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Strategic Planning: Effective Organizational Values

As you’re working toward developing a values statement for your strategic plan, beware of the personal and emotional connection most of your team members have with creating the values statement. Developing core values can be tricky because you’re transferring something that’s very personal into a group and business setting.

Here are some guidelines:

  • One word isn’t enough to convey the real meaning of a value. Create phrases, but not paragraphs.

  • Values should be specific, not generic. More than one word is needed to define specificity.

  • Some values-driven language may be part of your mission statement. That’s fine, but consider not repeating what you’ve covered elsewhere.

  • Values need to be shared. Although you don’t need consensus from everyone in your organization, you do need agreement from senior management.

  • The list should include between five and seven values. Values need to be memorable to your staff, so having a few statements is better than having so many that nobody remembers any.

To illustrate these guidelines in action, look at Herman Miller, an innovative furniture company.

  • Rather than using the word excellence, Herman Miller chose the word performance, and explained what that means this way: “It isn’t a choice, it’s about everyone performing at his or her own best; we measure it; it enriches our lives and brings value.”

  • Rather than using the word teamwork, Herman Miller uses the word inclusiveness, and describes it this way: “To succeed as a company, we must include all the expressions of human talent and potential . . . when we are truly inclusive, we go beyond toleration to understanding all the qualities that make people who they are, that make us unique, and most important, that unite us.”

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