The Grenfell inquiry has recently heard witnesses from Rydon, the contractor which took on the design and build responsibility for the Grenfell Tower project from April 2014 onwards. A number of news stories were covered:
- Rydon sought to keep more than £100,000 of the savings made by switching to the deadly aluminium composite material cladding on Grenfell Tower by hiding the true costs from its client.
- The Rydon contract manager was described as using ‘Essex boy patter’ to push the cheaper cladding option for Grenfell.
- There were some issues between Rydon employees and ‘vocal and aggressive’ Grenfell residents who complained about fire safety
- Rydon’s project manager was unable to explain the presence of “shockingly poor workmanship” on cavity barriers in the cladding system installed on the building.
- It is interesting to note that Rydon Group website states the following:
Rydon will continue to succeed as long as we:
- Are respectful and personable to all with whom we work.
- Consider teamwork as the best way to get things done.
- Are enthusiastic in our approach to every challenge.
- Are honest and open in all our communication.
The Grenfell Tower fire was an appalling tragedy and it is always disappointing to reveal examples of poor behaviour like the above, especially when this seems to be in direct contravention to the company’s officially stated intention. Over the years, we have witnessed a number of other examples where the behaviour and conduct of individuals has been at odds with the officially stated values, sometimes with extreme consequences: from nearly twenty years ago with the Enron scandal, to the collapse of the News of the World, to Carillion – the largest ever trading liquidation in the UK, or Bell Pottinger. The scale and nature of these stories understandably attracted plenty of attention and condemnation. However, what might be even more astounding to learn is that these examples of a “values gap” (or should it be “values chasm”?) were not isolated incidents. Far from it. Recent research by Donald Sull, Stefano Turconi, and Charles Sull, MIT Sloan School of Management reveals that there is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasises in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees.
The research specifically highlights the importance of the following:
- Provide behavioural guidelines. Leaders can provide additional guidance by spelling out a handful of expected behaviours consistent with each value. To the extent these guidelines shape behaviour across all parts of the organisation, they provide a consistent framework for different functions, business units, and teams to coordinate their activities. This is precisely what the award-winning 31Practices approach delivers.
- Articulate what makes your organisation distinctive. An organisation’s core values are an opportunity to capture the enduring essence of the organisation and what sets it apart from competitors. A distinctive culture is a powerful way to engage employees to “live” the values and provide a source of sustainable competitive advantage.
- Explain why your values matter. Explaining the rationale behind specific values helps employees (and other stakeholders) understand why the organisation prizes certain values above others. Clarifying the purpose of values also makes it easier to measure whether they are working.
The research emphasises how the role of effective communication can help to achieve the above and, whilst I agree with the general point, in my experience, this communication centred approach often means that the values are regarded as just that, something to be communicated and the result is a “comms programme”. I suggest that it is even more critical to operationalise the values for every person every day, with a relentless focus on aligned action, decisions and behaviour.
Values are for living not laminating.
SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Helps Organizations Bring Their Values to Life
Values allow you to unify your workforce to achieve shared goals. They translate your personality to your customers and reflect on everything. From your top-down business decisions to the service your employees deliver to customers. That’s why values-aligned organizations can provide service excellence.
The SERVICEBRAND approach focuses on helping authentic service organizations to bring their values to life. We foster a values-aligned company culture to support the implementation of organization-wide strategies. Using our 31Practices approach and/or more general coaching and mentoring, we work with leaders and teams to deliver values driven service for sustained performance.
Everything we do is rooted in and aligned with an organization’s purpose and values. Get in touch today for a consultation!