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The Challenges of Sustaining Value Systems in Organisations

The Challenges of Sustaining Value Systems in Organisations

“Values create the foundation of every successful organization, and all the choices we make in life are influenced by what we value most.”

This statement has been iterated to the point of being a cliché, but exactly what is it that drives a value-driven institution and how do the values trickle down to make it a sustainable, value-based organisation in the long run? This is a question which has no single answer. More often than not when discussing value driven organisations the question of ‘how’ overshadows the question of ‘what’.

So what are these values that we are talking about? They are a set of thoughts, principles, beliefs or the moral fibre upon which an organisation is based and which need to be nurtured for the growth and sustenance of the organization, so that it remains anchored to its founding principles. In broader terms, it may be compared to the constitution that was created for a country to be run or governed by — the constitution is the value system for the country.

Increasingly, the founder members of an organization, in the healthcare or non healthcare sector, discuss the principles or values on which the organisation was founded to assess whether the system has strengthened those values or, in some cases, diluted them. In most successfully run organisations, it is seen that the system in place has strengthened the value systems on which they were founded.

For example, Infosys has remained very committed to the value system of integrity, loyalty and an employee-centric organization. These have been strengthened even when the management changed some years back. Similarly, the Indigo airlines’ value system is rooted in the best service experience at affordable costs, which made it the market leader in seat share. It continues to be the most profitable airline in India and second on the run of profitable quarters, globally.

So how have successful organisations been able to sustain their value systems and create strong beliefs in them to prosper? Some methods of doing this are:

Leading by example: You don’t only talk the talk but walk the talk. That’s how the top management delivers — by doing everything, whether visible or not, according to the value system of the organization.

Breaking it down to the lowermost employee: Graduating from the  jargon mode and making sense of the value system to the lower most employee is essential. After all, it is in the beliefs of the people more than the people themselves.

Freedom to make mistakes: The value system only exists and grows when there is transparency and the employees feel free to take independent decisions to support the value system. That is only possible when there is empowerment and freedom for employees in favour of customer delight/engagement.

Engage positively: Continuous positive engagement from the management towards its employees is one of the key ways to drill down the value system and understand the gaps.

Continuity of thoughts: The value-based system is not a cross-sectional event but a longitudinal event comprising of long and continuous efforts over a period of time. This means that creating a value-based system is not a one-day effort but it requires a very long standing belief of the top management in the values, while making efforts to nurture, preserve and implement them.

Setting standards and taking tough decisions: “What if we spend time on training people and they leave” will always be juggled against “what if we don’t and then they stay?” The accepted practice is to provide sufficient time and space to a person entering the system to evolve into the value system and, later, consider what to do if the person does not evolve or accept those values. The decision to retain or to let the individual loose is a tricky one for the management to ensure continuity of the value system for future generations. Eventually, some tough decisions may have to be taken to sustain the value system for long-term organizational growth.

Value systems are worked out, delivered and driven by the people in the organisation and, in that sense, values are the sum of the individual parts. This drives a sense of belonging. That belonging to the system is the reason why many people stay in the system, report adverse events and think of the organisational good over the individual good. One of the simpler methods to instill and continue value systems in the enterprise is to connect the “individual“ to the “system” and bring them together as one.

– Saurabh Bose, Project Commissioning Team for CARE’s new hospitals in Hi-tech City and Bhubaneswar.

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