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Q: My trustees have suggested we have a 'values' statement. What do you think? And what should we put in it?
I'm really not sure. It can certainly be trendy, but I suspect that sometimes it's a bit like walking into a church and seeing the Ten Commandments painted up on the wall. Do we actually pay a lot of attention, even if it looks artistic?
I certainly don't think you should spend time developing a values statement if all you are going to do is keep the trustees happy and put it at the end of your annual report.
However, a speech by Clare Owen at Acevo's recent social enterprise conference suggested how such statements could be useful. Owen, a successful businesswoman, set up the Stop Gap recruitment agency. Prime among the nine brand values she outlined were 'hard working' and 'team working'.
She uses these brand values as a guide to how the company should operate, advertising them to potential recruits so they can see what type of organisation they are coming to and exactly what's expected of them.
It is certainly true that any organisation develops its own culture or 'way of doing things', so there will be unspoken values at an organisation even if you don't have them written down.
It might well be worth you raising this in discussion with your colleagues.
In particular, it could be interesting to ask them what they think the 'values' of the organisation are. This sounds like one of those tasks for your next strategic awayday.
Nevertheless, I don't recommend spending a large amount of time on this - it could be too much navel-gazing.
A great many of the values statements I have seen omit one of the most important aspects of any organisation: delivery. They tend to be high on love, niceness and teamwork, but rather low on delivering what the customers want.
That's why I rather liked Clare's emphasis on 'hard working'. I'd hazard a guess that this doesn't feature in many third-sector organisations' values statements - but one has to ask, why not?
The Communist Party of Great Britain's general secretary recently issued an eight-point values code to instil virtue into the country's youth.
Not bad, eh? (Although I'm not sure about the "plain living"!).