Value-based philosophy for brands
Values have become a popular tool in corporate philosophy, a set of attributes that are supposed to attach to the organisation. As far as I can tell, the idea has been around for decades, but initially in the form of a set of personal attributes expected of executives.
From what I read values, as a form of corporate philosophy, really came to the fore in the Nineties, following a widespread loss of confidence in, as well as revulsion at, corporate conduct. Think a company like Enron, here.
Although, in the ongoing absence of adherence to the requirements of governance in some financial systems, stated values can be treated pessimistically, overall they are a valuable in the toolkit of the interfaces between the entity, and various groups of stakeholders.
Internally, a sound set of values can be extremely useful, particularly in decision making. They can provide guidelines on certain cut-off points for behaviour, as well as the quality of decisions. This frees up various levels of the hierarchy to make decisions, and chart the course of their own behaviour, rather than referring upwards for decisions.
For instance, a value which states concern for Namibia enables the decision maker to assess a decision in terms of its value for the country, or the preference given to peer enterprises who are in Namibia.
One of the most telling comments is that entities that translate their values into operations receive far more benefits from the system, rather than those that leave them on the wall.
A quick scan of writing on values shows that there are several fields that have emerged or are emerging. The most obvious are integrity, transparency and accountability. Other popular values are the set that relates to performance and customer treatment. A third set, one that is currently emerging, relates to social and environmental concerns.
If you are eagle-eyed you will have noticed that internal employee matters do not appear, though it feels it should be there. In essence, the sets translate to ethical behaviour within the company (almost within the realm of compliance and legal liability), behaviour geared towards harmonious relationships with customers, and mitigating the negative operational impacts in the social and environmental realms.
What is clear is that there is a progression based on values that are perceived to be important in terms of the standard attributes of successful governance and client relations, and that new values emerge on a contingency basis, so there is room to develop a set of values, particularly to feature among the set that is emerging.
Given that the standard aspects of integrity, transparency and accountability are prerequisites or will become so, then handling of other values has to be adroit to avoid overloading the list of values with so many aspects that they become unmanageable as a group. Too many cooks spoil the broth, so to speak. Yet environmental and social impact, as well as value for employees, seem to be important.
A further aspect of values is that they are almost always inward looking, and actually give scant attention to external expression. This flies in the face of the idea that governance is more than compliance, but also an outreach initiative to clients and stakeholders.
Internalised expression of values gives limited scope for assessment on the part of clients and stakeholders. Internalisation makes the entity unnoticeable as long as it behaves, but there is limited experience of the values, unless they fail. By analogy, the quiet, well-behaved child attracts less attention than it should.
What this implies is that externalisation should also be considered. Develop values in a manner that projects the value to the customer or stakeholder in a way that their impact can be assessed.
It can not be particularly complex. Simply find out how customers and stakeholders will value the organisation, evolve the values on that basis and project them.