The Values Statement

Finally, we take a look at the values statement. The mission tells us what we do and the vision statement tells us why we are doing it. The values statement tells us how we are doing it. It provides an abstract interpretation of how we conduct our business and operations.

In our coffee shop example, some of these were ideas were captured in the mission statement. There, we used some adjectives (great, delicious, and amazing) to describe our coffee, food, and community. But this isn’t really the same. Those are targets for delivery, not a decision-making framework.

Regardless of our organizations flavor, public, private, or nonprofit, we have some basic value judgements. We might have a strong focus on customer service. Or maybe a research group would have a focus on evidence-based decision making. Of mission, vision, and values, the values are the only statement I think can be reasonably placed in a list form. This is because each value in a values statement should stand apart of the rest. If not, the list should be rethought until they do. So imagine our coffee shop, again. Our values might be simple:

  • Ethical food
  • Community service
  • Respecting our employees

That’s great, but can even elaborate on these:

  • Ethical food — We will serve natural food that sourced from responsible and sustainable vendors.
  • Community service — We will work with the community to improve the quality of our neighborhood.
  • Respecting our employees — We will treat our employees as we wish we were treated, providing a fair wage and benefits.

Our coffee shop has made some powerful statements here about how we do business. When we are faced a question about what type of coffee we will serve, the ethical food value should dictate an answer. And questions about hiring practices should be resolved by our employee respect value.

I’ve only listed three values here, but more can be added. The list of values should cover most aspects of internal decision making and provide the framework necessary for employees to make decisions aligned with the organization’s focus.

In a sense, the values statement could be considered an ethical or moral code for the organization. In another, it is the framework for decision-making that will guide the organization. Partnered with mission and vision, the values statement provides a comprehensive view of what an organization is.

Tomorrow, we’ll put this all together in the context of the strategic plan.

Image by Howard Lake / Flickr.