When I hear the word “values”… I reach for my gin


That man was a Nazi, and this blog has no truck with that, but I have a similar reaction to talk of organisational culture, in particular, values

I don’t get values.

I think they’ve been spoiled for me by too much optimistic starry eyed HR-driven guff, generally part of a corporate wide transformation effort, where some Values merchant will trundle out their  wheelbarrow of soft skills, simply laden with this year’s new values.

Here are 4 reasons why I reach for my gin whenever I hear the word “values”.

1 It’s all for the pens

I’ve seen several packs (communes? cuddles?) of values come and go, and they’re always inscribed on office giveaways, free tat handed out to replace the old mouse mats or pens. The values have generally disappeared before the pens run out of ink.  But I’ve never witnessed a transformational effort that actually does change values, because the point of intervention seems to be mainly paper based. Lots of new posters, mentions of these new values on appraisal forms, linking of plans etc to this new values. The intervention is aimed at making the pieces of paper link to each other using different words. And pens, lots of pens.
I reckon there is a values-and-office-tat cartel somewhere making a fortune off of this.

2 Paddling in the shallows

Culture and values seem the prerogative of people who want to change them to something else, crucially without any talk of what the current ones already are.
Anybody can do that! Here, have some values. Pretty!

Ever in your real life wanted to change something about yourself, a habit, behaviour etc?
If it worked, I bet it involved some sort of introspection, thinking and that, about what is currently going wrong and why. Your thought processes that are creating your current situation. Finding out what is happening right now, and why.
Well you did it wrong, loser.
What you should have done is shortcut right to the good bit where you pick some nice words and scatter them hither and thither. And get them printed onto pens. Lots of pens.

3 Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

There are some values on the American Declaration of Independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what’s freedom eh? Is it freedom to do something, or is it freedom FROM something? Is it freedom to own a gun, or freedom to be able to walk around without fear of people who own guns? That’s philosopy for you, but if one word can have two opposite meanings, and in a proper document to boot, what chance do the following “values” have?



They are more brightly coloured than the Declaration of Independence, so they’ll live at least 3 or 4 years before a new set are graphic designed. And put on pens.

4 Culture is read only

Wossat, I hear you say. Culture. It’s read only.
That means you can look at it, pick it up, investigate it, but you can’t go directly at it and change the blighter. Oh but people try though, as if the sheer power of nagging will break through the inertia of the thing. Like Mrs Doyle offering a cup of tea.

“But whats it mean “culture is read only” ?”

It means culture is the result of something else. You can see it, but you can’t change it. That would be like thinking you can stop the sun shining by rubbing sun tan cream on yourself.
Culture, and those associated values, can change. But culture does not change through the strategic use of pens.


Pencils however…

To change culture and whatever these value things are requires more than pens, look to see what this man says here

How can we change the organisation’s culture?

You can’t. Culture is read-only. A manifestation and a reflection of the underlying, collective assumptions and beliefs of all the folks working in the organisation. To see any cultural changes, you have to work on – by which I mean work towards a wholesale replacement of – this underlying collective memeplex. And that involves working with peoples’ heads, and in particular, collective headspaces. You can’t change other people’s assumptions and beliefs – only they can do that.

How can we change the mindset of managers?

You can’t. Managers – anyone, really – will only change their mindset when they see how their present mindset is ineffective at getting their needs – and the needs of others – met. Change (of mindset) is a normative process – it emerges from direct personal experiences of e.g. the way the work works now – and the problems inherent therein. You can’t change someone else’s mindset – only they can do that.

Source Flowchainsensei.wordpress.com


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