How to Write a Values Statement
What is a value statement? A value statement explains what you believe in & it is really a set of values that articulates what your team believes in. Learn how to write one here from Erica Olsen of OnStrategy.
For more resources on building your strategic plan, view the Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning.
“Hi. My name is Erica Olsen. This white board session is on how to create a value statement. What is a value statement? A value statement explains what you believe in and it’s really a set of values as you would expect, 5-7, that articulate what your team, the people in your organization, believe in and hold true. I really like the analogy if we take the bus analogy. The bus being the organization. The values really are how we treat each other when we’re hanging out on that bus. So putting yours together, what are the characteristics of a great value statement? Let’s take a look. I recommend no more than seven. I’ve seen really long value statements and if you want people to actually behave and act on these values, people have to be able to remember them, so no more than 7. Five to seven is great.
One word not enough. You know the word respect. Okay of course, so what about that? Some sort of statement after it is really helpful and useful. They need to be shared ideas so the point here is everybody has values. You have values, I have values, we hold different things true as individuals. We’re asking for a shared set of values, again things that guide our behavior as an organization. And lastly, it may be in your mission statement. Don’t worry about it. We get a little tripped on how all these pieces come together; mission, vision, values, but we’re asking for separate statements because they do separate things. In this case, values again, help us guide our behavior. So you know people always ask me do I really need a value statement? I would say well technically you don’t need any of these statements vision, mission, values or whatever the case may be, but value statements are so important because again, they really help us say what are you allowed to do, what do we expect from your behavior, and again, what is dis-allowable?
If you don’t do these things, perhaps they’re fire-able offenses. Which kind of brings us to this how do you it use it piece. So one of those things, kind of skipping here to reinforcement and consequences. If we’re saying, for example, respect is an important value of ours, then we need to reinforce that in our performance management reviews, for example. Perhaps there are rewards or consequences for actually living out those values. Having a value statement and not doing anything with it but putting it one the website, is not useful. Doing something with it around training, brown bag lunches, what does respect really mean for example? How do we show respect? What does that action look like? When you ask those questions, they get a little hard, they get a little touchy feely, but we’re asking for behavior and behavior is pretty personal right? Alignment is the last thing on how to use it. Perhaps customer satisfaction is one of your values. Well then you should have a policy that you’ll have a hundred percent satisfaction guarantee for all of your services or products.
There’s alignment between your policies and your value statement. How do we put a value statement together? Well unlike some of the other work in-strategy development, values is pretty personal. We do want everyone, and I would say this is not an elective. We really want everyone in your organization to participate in this particular exercise. The process should not be getting in a room, around a round table or conference table and say well, “what do we all believe in,” because you kind of need to think about it. It’s personal, it’s individual and that means I would send it out via a survey and I would make sure it’s anonymous. okay? We don’t just want to send out any old survey. We need to ask a very specific question because if you ask the wrong question you’re not going to get back the right answer, which kind of goes without saying. So what is the question?
The question is, what are the guiding principles that dictate how we treat each other and our customers. What’s important about that? We didn’t use the word values, we used the word guiding principle. Same thing but it’s just not as scary a word. We asked about we treat each other as well as how we treat our customers. My tip for you, is when you put your value statement together, make sure it’s not hollow. When everybody has input into the process, everyone included, then you have a value statement that has some meaning as opposed to it just being a list of ideas.”