Most Values are Useless

Most organizational values are useless.

Without contrast they are invisible.
Without edges they are unmeasurable.
Without order they are chaos.
Without use they are abandoned.

Values are everywhere today. Organizations carefully craft and proudly parade their values. Potential recruits are tested for alignment with the team’s values. Interviewees are cautioned to check that their personal values align with the prospective team’s.

Many organizations refer to their Core Values as centerpieces of their culture. Yet most value statements are generic pablum advocating Quality, Integrity, Customers, or Safety. They lack the clarity to be useful and are therefore never actually used.

Without something to contrast it to, a generic value of Quality is of no use. Quality compared to what? Garbage? Mediocrity? The competition’s best?

Without clearly defined edges, a value is vague. How much Quality is enough? When has the standard not been met? And how is that measured?

Without order, a collection of value statements is little more than word salad. Is Quality or Timeliness more important? Do Customers or Safety come first?

And without use, values soon lie fallow. If not every decision is made with strict adherence to the values, are they really Core to the organization?

To be Core, Values must be clearly and rigorously defined, their edges honed razor sharp, and their priorities strictly structured. And they must remain true through consistent and continuous use.

Without it, they are useless.