One more time… Why values are a pile of cobbler’s

This month I’m going to be handed a piece of paper with the Organisation’s​ new “Values and behaviours”, in my annual performance review.

So this means what I value and how I behave will change once I read what they’re to be this financial year.

This is of course total bollocks.

But this is how command and control organisations think. The theory seems to be that Things and People change because they’re in an official document, approved by senior leaders and cascaded through management hierarchy. 

Let’s say that the last time I was told what my new values were to be, that magically they actually changed to be these values. Let’s say that happened.

Let’s say there was internal commitment to these values, and let’s say that this changed my behaviour, and consequently my “performance” changed. Let’s say that happened.

So here I am, thinking and acting differently because the theory held true, that approved values issued through the annual objective setting process, took root and authentically changed me.

Then this financial year a new piece of paper tells me to drop the old ones and take up new values. If I dropped my authentic values like that, then they weren’t really real were they?

Any knowledge of humans you’ve gleaned over your life must tell you this is not how people think or behave. If they change authentically, this takes time, or some big life changing event. Not reading a document, or worse the side of a pen.

If Things and People changed like this, then command and control management works.

Because Things and People don’t change like this, command and control management doesn’t work.

The most important thing to remember about organisational values is….

If you change your values because a piece of paper tells you, then the old values and the new values were not really values.

This entry was posted in change, command and control, psychology, thinking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to One more time… Why values are a pile of cobbler’s

  1. Keely Maitland says:

    Interesting piece. Made me think more about the value of values to an organisation. Telling people to change their values by edict is just the start of this farce. It reminds me of the problems that non-systems thinkers have when they think about change. People’s behaviours are just the tip of the iceberg and won’t change one jot unless the underlying structures (and other things) change so that they now support the required behaviours. What a waste!

    Liked by 2 people

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Yup, cause, effect, ALL CONFUSED
      what perplexes me is what people think who AGREE or at least don’t disagree with this. How do they react in their head to this piece of paper? I’m bemused.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Miguel Pires says:

    I will be benevolent and assume “values” = “some form, albeit roundabout of communicating purpose”. There are two things at play here: (1) that “values” change from one financial year to the next (they shouldn’t = constancy of purpose) and (2) that “values” are documented and broadly communicated across the organization (not a problem by itself provided it is not considered enough to enact change). I don’t believe anyone thinks that a piece paper will make a huge difference – Unfortunately I suspect they are just trying to preempt the most basic rebuke of all during a performance review:

    Employee: “I don’t know what is expected of me! What are our ‘values’ anyway”?
    Manager: (Bingo!) “Oh! Didn’t you get the memo?”


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Whatever it is, it’s NOT REAL. And as soon as I see people acting as if something clearly unreal IS real, then I’m forced to conclude either they’re acting stupid or they’re lying to themselves and me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A piece of paper with a list of values on it won’t change much unless they are really and consistently role modelled by senior managers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, as senior managers may not be in agreement themselves about the values the really want (one may want command and control, another may want innovation and empowerment). As long as there’s is inconsistency at the top, what is written on a piece of paper will not mean much.


  4. sturob23 says:

    Isn’t the U.S constitution a list of values? That seems to have changed people? or at least the way they think?


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