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East is east and west is west… – Values and values

Almost all companies in the world do have values. Sometimes expressed as core values and sometimes as just values. The word value emanates from the latin word ‘Valere’ which means; ‘To be strong/well/powerful’ or ‘To bid farewell or good bye’. There are different meanings of the word however the two most common is about; A, ‘what something is worth, the price of something’ and B, ‘ a persons principles or standards for behavior.’ Sometimes companies mix these meanings when talking about ‘the values we have in this company’ especially when they’re used in marketing.

What is worth considering is the original meaning of the word. Languages develop and some linguists say that a language transform and within a period of about 1000 years we change 30% of all words in a language. A person who’ll experience their ‘second life’ 3-3500 year after her first life will thus not understand her mother language. Irrespective of this, it’s funny how valid the origin of the word ‘valere’ is. When a company decide to have values they also say no to the antonym of the specific value. E.g. take the value ‘quality’ which is a common one. What you do say goodbye to when embracing quality as a value is low class. However that is just the negative part of the word, what about a true quality driven engineering company who develop cutting edge products where there always is a better quality in some engineers eyes? The developers can lean on the companies core value ‘quality’ and postpone the launch of a product since there always is a better quality. The products are not low class. They’re actually – in the eye of the customer – high class.

When a company succeeds with its work with values it can turn out to be rigid, paradoxically even though you might have ‘flexible’ as a value. One might ask if values can be contra productive for companies if we are successful with the internalisation? If we succeed with the value ‘respect’ we’re either so flexible so people can do whatever they would like to do or we’re so conform that we’re all single minded.

Of course there are other variables into this, but the purpose of having values is to set a frame of what is our culture and describe the character of the company. They also guide the behavior and how to make decisions. But what happens when: the values are just meaningless words for the employees? We lack the overall direction of the company and the intention? When the values are too anchored to the leaders? When the stakeholders different intentions are incongruent?

So, what do we say good bye to when having values like: Confidence, Broad-Minded, Committed, Performance, Integrity, Respect etc.?

Can values be contra productive for the culture, when we succeed with the internalisation of the companies’ values?

Are values in most companies valueless, if we not link them with a clear intention?

One comment for “East is east and west is west… – Values and values”

  1. Bella 2 Mar 2011, 18:56

    YOU ARE VALUABLE!
    Tack för, återigen, kloka ord!

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