Values or Culture – which comes first? It’s a “Chicken or Egg” question.

Values or Culture? Which comes first?

All organizations have a unique culture and company culture can affect
the success, or failure, of a business.

So how do you change the culture of your business to support long
term success?

If Culture is the “chicken” in this story, then Values is the

Culture is driven, to a large extent, by the Values you embrace
in the day-to-day activities in your business.

Culture is often described as a “feeling” we get when we work with
certain organizations. We may not be consciously aware of the values
of these companies, but if we pay close attention, they are observable
in the behaviours and appearance of the employees and the physical
appearance of the premises.

The values you practice in your business can attract, or repel, three
important audiences: Customers, Employees, and Business Partners
(your suppliers and/or distributors).

We prefer to do business and work with people or companies we trust,
who enquire about and understand our needs, who are reliable and do
what they say they will do.

Creating company values has traditionally been a top-down exercise.
This makes the task of creating a Values document relatively easy and
quick. However, getting widespread buy-in by the employees is difficult
and time consuming and often falls by the wayside. The Company
Values poster is placed on the wall in the lunchroom, the entry lobby,
and web site, but the underlying behaviours are not practiced in any
meaningful way.

A better way to get early buy-in and widespread support is through
employee participation in creating the values statement.

It takes a little longer at the front end, but the return on the investment
is in earlier and more sustainable buy-in. In many organizations the values of the founder and current leadership are already “baked-in” to the culture of the company. It is important to capture and retain these attributes as a starting point then build on this
base information through collaboration with your employees.

Below are a few questions to open the discussion with your staff about
the idea and importance of personal and company values. The intent is
to expand and clarify a draft Values statement so that it is complete and
understandable for everyone in the company.

These questions will generate a list of desired behaviours,
physical attributes, and general beliefs that you can later organize
into a coherent document for final review and revision.

  • What behaviours and attributes do you value in a team member?
  • What are the positive things our team members do to make
    this a better place to work?
  • Think about your best manager. What are the characteristics
    about that person that sets him/her apart?
  • When you have a tough problem to solve, what are the things
    that are helpful to the process?
  • What do you value in companies and organizations that you do business with as a customer? (desired behaviours, physical appearance or general beliefs that you have observed)
  • What are the positive things we do to bring value to our customers?
  • What do you value in your best busines partners? (suppliers/distributors)
  • What are the positive things your best business partners do that sets them apart?

Once you have a list, find someone on your team who is good at
synthesizing information to organize into categories and tidy up the

Here’s an example:

Stated Value – key attribute
observable behaviours that illustrate the attribute

Reliability and courtesy – (sample) At ABC we work hard at being reliable and courteous in all things we do.

Definition: observable behaviours that illustrate the attribute

Which means that:

  • We show up on time.
  • We do what we say.
  • We finish what we start.
  • We say please and thank you.

When your whole team is engaged in designing this document, you
should soon see individuals at all levels of the company start to hold
each other accountable to behaviour standards they had a hand in

In larger companies you may experience sub-cultures within
departments or work groups. This collaborative approach to clarifying
desired behaviours throughout the company will help identify these
anomalies and lead to corrective action.

Once you are satisfied with your first draft of Company Values, put it in
your Plan Genie Busines Plan, Part 2, for future reference and revision.
For more tips and advice on documenting your working business plan
please visit

Acknowledgement – Special thanks to Tom Foster for initiating some of
the ideas expressed in this post.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *