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Creating a Values Statement: A Time-Tested Example

Posted on February 15, 2014 at 11:40 PM


A values statement can be a very useful thing to keep an organization centered on its purpose as it grows and expands. The value statement identifies the few core values and beliefs that the organization has embedded in its core that ties the organization together and differentiates it from other organizations. It creates a useful framework to discuss desired behaviors with employees and to assess different opportunities and challenges facing the organization. In many ways, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence is a great example of a values statement:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In just 35 words, that one sentence captures the shared values and beliefs that held the signers of that document together as a group.

Here are some tips on how you can create a values statement for your organization.

In an organization with a strong founder still leading, the vision could be very clear in his or her head. In that case, just getting it on paper as a draft is a good start. One way you could help this is to have someone interview the leader and translate that conversation into a draft on paper. I had the honor of working with (now Senator) Elizabeth Warren when I was an early member of the new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Professor Warren crystalized the values of that agency into a values statement that was both compelling and concise. Google it if you want an example.

You could have someone interview the whole leadership team to capture what they believe the values are and should be. Create a questionnaire with a common set of questions and schedule a meeting with the top executives. Compile the results of those interviews and highlight the common themes into a draft version. Send back the draft version to the interviewees for them to edit to further hone your draft.

You can get a broader sense of values in your organization by doing an online survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey.com. One way to structure that would be to come up with a list of values and have people rate how important they think they are how and how much it applies to the organization. You should keep the survey anonymous but should capture some basic information like which part of the organization they are in and their job level. With this, you can get some good insights into how values are different and similar across the organization and how your organization is living the values it wants.

Categories: Organizational Values, People Leadership, Values Statement