Turning core values into real actions

"Values Into Actions" is a hands-on exercise for turning your company's core values into real-world reality.

Turning core values into real actions

So you’ve identified your core values and everyone’s excited about them. Now what?

The powerful experience of identifying a company’s core values is too often followed by the unforgivable act of forgetting about them. People frankly just don’t know what to do with core values once they know them.

(Making matters worse, some companies attribute this lack of follow-through as a fault of the core values concept itself, leading them to declare “We tried that, it doesn’t work” or “That core values stuff is a bunch of consulting nonsense.” They got the prescription, but never took the medicine.)

The "Values Into Actions" exercise solves this problem by turning these core values into reality within your company.

Start by giving everyone in the session a stack of Post-it notes, and ask them to finish the following sentence:

“If we really believed in this core value, we would….”

Then let them run wild brainstorming ways the company can truly live its core values, in both big ways and little ways. Remind them that every option is on the table, and that nothing is too crazy to write down.

Once you have a decent number of ideas up on the board, it’s time to turn these wild ideas into a list of actual tasks people can commit to doing.

Start by drawing a large chart with the labels “Easy” and “Difficult” on the top, and “Big Impact” and “Little Impact” on the sides, so there are two columns and two rows. (Depending on the size of the group or the number of responses, you may want to add “Medium” to either or both sides of the chart as well.)

Ask the group to categorize each of the actions identified into one of those table cells, based on their gut feeling about the action. Once they’re all placed, ask them to review the placements and decide if they want to move anything around. They can have some conversation during this stage if they want to talk through it a bit.

Once they’re comfortable with the breakdown on the board, it’s time to start turning ideas into actual commitments. Start with the low hanging fruit — the Easy + High Impact actions — and go from there. For each action, figure out the most logical first step, identify who should be responsible for it, and make the assignment.

You don’t want too many tasks to come out of this exercise, or they won’t get done. Keep it focused and realistic, but make sure you end the exercise feeling like some real change is about to happen. Record the assigned tasks, and follow up every 30 days to make sure those tasks are getting done.

While those actions won’t give the full effect of the company truly living its core values, it will quickly demonstrate that the company is serious about its values and is actually doing something about it. Once those principles and habits start to sink in, they’ll manifest themselves in other areas of the company as well.