Changing how we think about values


Values is a staid word for something that should be the most alive part of your organisation.

They’re the things that should galvanise and guide what you do – the work you do (or don’t) take on, the kind of people you want to work with. All of that important, defining stuff.

Too often though they are simply a list of tired words – “honesty”, “collaboration” – that sit on a word document saved somewhere you can’t remember.

Physician heal thyself could have been said about our approach to our own values. We spent a lot of time early last year nailing down what really mattered to us as an organisation and as people – we want to be open, stay true, embrace the eclectic, be brave, stay driven and aim for brilliance. What we didn’t have was a way of getting these off a Keynote slide and into our environment.

Posters and screensavers are one way of doing this but weren’t really ‘us’.

What did we do – and what did we learn?

You don’t have to call them ‘values’ – none of us connected with the word values so we decided to talk about ‘what matters to us’ instead. If the word values works for you, great. If not, find something that does.

There are no perfect words – there will never be the perfect four words that neatly sum up all that matters to your organisation in a way that everyone thinks is exactly right. Get down the four (or six, in our case) things that do the job well enough and then get on with the living of them.

Make them tangible – rather than just words, we found items that represent brilliance or openness or truth and have them on display in the office. Sounds weird but it works.

Measure them – our PDPs are now structured around our values. At the beginning of the year we outline how we will aim for brilliance, how we will stay driven etc and hold ourselves accountable to these.

Talk about them – we bring our values us into our conversations and decision-making, asking each other “is this brave? Are we being open?”. We bring them into client conversations too and use them to inform how we work together.


In summary – make them real and relevant to you, bring them into your everyday work life in creative and unusual ways, talk about them – lots – and shape your processes around them.