What does it take for an organisation to truly live its values, and crucially - to sustain them over the long-term?
It’s a recognizable feature of modern-day working life to many of us: the company mission statement is brandished from the website to the office walls, but day-to-day behaviours fall far short of the stated ideals – so far often as to feel downright hypocritical.
“We’re all about our people” - but employees are stressed and stretched to breaking point. “We’re open and respectful” - but bosses are egotistical or tyrannical, and staff are afraid to speak out about the bullying or bad manners of their colleagues.
Is it time to call this all out as business BS? Or is it really possible to create a values-based culture that is authentic and has staying power? Will there always a gap between values and practice? Is it just an inevitability of human nature? Or are there things we could do, individually and structurally, to help close it?
At the RSA, a panel of expert thinkers and do-ers who have ‘been there, done that’, help us identify the barriers that stop organisations living up to their values – and show the way for us all to do better.
World Values Day
At a time of growing concern about values in so many areas of society – in business, in politics, in traditional media and social media, in the justice system, in responding to the refugee crisis, in almost every area of our lives - World Values Day gives an opportunity to re-assess our values and those of the organisations and communities we belong to, and our commitment to them. How can we do better at putting our values into practice?
To mark this year’s World Values Day, 19th October 2017, the RSA is collaborating with the Forward Institute and the UK Values Alliance in an initiative called the Values Challenge. Groups and organisations of all kinds are invited to take part in an intensive one-hour session to help them close the gap between the values they aspire to and how they are lived in practice.
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This was an interesting and important discussion that reflects the fact that there are different academic perceptions of the subject that generally support similar solutions. Governance, as the holistic decision making process of organisations where ownership and control are not unified, seeks to answer the same questions but accepts that this requires a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on practical solutions rather than the need for academic papers. It also includes the role of the state by creating an environment through the passing of laws and regulations, the establishment of a regulatory frameworks, the funding and facilitation of regulators to prevent the most adverse behaviours for the benefit of society.
We must then confront issues that the face of capitalism, as best seen by banks, which does not deliver what we expect of society. Telling people that preserving the same managers and executives in their posts, which nearly brought down western society is not plausible and many have voted against the preservation of a perceived elite that led to votes for anti-establishment in Brexit, Macron and Trump.
This issue is, I believe, more fundamental to society, which will be amplified by Brexit, where EU guidance will be removed and the influence of the executives of Sports Direct and Barclays will be enhanced. Regulators failed to plug the holes highlighted by Maxwell's pension high-jack that was utilized by Sir Philip Green at BHS or ensure the appropriate cladding of high rise residential accommodation.
The question should be, what are the values of the state and public interest organizations and what are the rights of individuals and society in a post Brexit world?