What “cool companies” catch your attention? Are you drawn to them because of the unique brand, their cutting-edge products, their inspired workforce or possibly their consistently wowed customers? My colleagues and I at The Ken Blanchard Cos. seek out best-practice organizations based on two primary elements: high performance and values alignment.

In more than 12 years of research and experience with helping clients refine their corporate cultures, we have identified important practices that are common across the high-performance, values-aligned companies we study. As we review a few of these in this post, consider how well your organization does today on these practices.

  • Organization members have clarified their personal purpose and values and have shared them with colleagues. Leaders and employees do not leave their personal “reason for being” (purpose) or “life principles” (values) at the door when they come to work. Who they are as people has been reinforced over time and is embedded in their world view. By formalizing and sharing their personal purpose and values, organization members typically learn they have much in common with their leaders, peers and employees. That foundation builds understanding, cooperation and support.
  • Our work environment builds trust in every interaction with leaders, employees and customers. Trust is one of the most critical elements of high-performing, values-aligned organizations. If policies, practices and systems pit people against one another, trust is eroded. If promises made are not kept, integrity goes by the wayside. If leaders, employees or customers feel taken advantage of, the “buzz” in your community or industry will be negative, not inspiring.
  • Every member of the organization has a formal performance plan, refined at least annually, and is held accountable to deliver agreed-to performance. Performance accountability starts with clear performance expectations. A disciplined “contribution management” process ensures that expectations are clear. A disciplined culture ensures that performance standards are met or exceeded by every player.
  • Every member of the organization has clear values expectations, defined in behavioral terms, and is held accountable for demonstrating those valued behaviors. Values accountability — the creation of great “corporate citizens” — starts with clear values expectations. Behaviorally defined values leaves no room for interpretation. “Integrity” can mean many things to many people. “I do what I say I will do” is not subject to moment-to-moment shifts. A disciplined culture ensures that values demonstration is consistent by every player.
  • Organization values are the foundation of every plan, decision and action. In high-performance, values-aligned organizations, there is greater focus on values demonstration than there is on performance demonstration. There are typically many systems in place to gauge productivity, efficiency, market share and the like. Organizations must implement systems to reinforce and gauge values alignment to enjoy values alignment.

How would front-line employees rate your company on these five elements? When every staff member ranks these as demonstrated more than 90% of the time, your company is in the rarefied air of “high performance and values alignment.”

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, an author and a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Cos. He co-authored Blanchard’s book “Leading at a Higher Level,” Blanchard’s award-winning culture-change process and the book “#POSITIVITY AT WORK Tweet.” Edmonds also authored the book “#CORPORATE CULTURE Tweet.” Subscribe to his leadership and culture blog at Driving Results Through Culture.

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9 Responses to “Compare your corporate culture to best-practice organizations”

  1. Chris, I am interested in understanding your point about "values expectations". A concrete example would be helpful.

  2. Dennis Akwara says:

    This is a piece that I would like to build my life on. There is clearly a link between who I am and what I do. Thanks for a great work.

  3. Robert Vanourek says:

    Chris, great post. Agree 100%. Furthermore, the leading edge companies engage in further practices, as we describe in a forthcoming book (July) including recruiting, developing, and rewarding a certain way; synthesizing the shared values; getting outside their natural leadership style to use "steel and velvet;" unleashing "stewards" to protect the culture; and collaboratively aligning the organization. More details in "Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations."

  4. [...] Edmonds also confirmed this approach in another SmartBlog on Leadership post in which he said: “Organization values are the foundation of every plan, decision and action. In [...]

  5. sc_edmonds says:

    Thanks for your comments, Robert – and best of luck with your book!

    Cheers!

    C.

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