What makes up the organization's backbone

Core values. Mission statement. Vision statement. Organizational DNA.

I was always very skeptical in terms of the actual meaning of those. Is it really possible to cover the essence of company's culture in such a short form without being over-generic or inaccurate? And do people really need such 'obvious obviosities'? What for? Isn't it a clear proof that something is wrong if they need this formulated so clearly, like something to be constantly reminded about?

But I was wrong.

Most likely because it worked too well & smoothly in the organizations I worked for. People understood them (core values), adapted to them and lived according to these values / statements, so in my eyes emphasizing them additionally was not necessary & 'too american'. And I didn't realize that until I saw the organization that had a huge problem with the foundations of its culture. Organization that:

  • struggled with the overall identity
  • was so internally divided that people didn't even try to work out shared goals
  • suffered from inability to improve anything, because it was that easy to undermine anything (without any consequences for being a cockblock)
  • completely lost any sort of trust between anyone but within tiny cliques, that have evolved to fulfil the need of mutual ass-covering
  • had no mechanism to assess an output of any activity - so, without any kind of feedback it didn't really matter whether something was done good or bad, it just had to be done somehow, or at least pretended well
  • lacked basic understanding of why people do what they do (value stream / revenue stream) - vast majority of them totally forgot that there are company's customers somewhere out there ...

How was it even possible ...

... to end up fucked up that hard?

I'd say that the main reason was a failure in building a proper company culture, at least partially because of not defining & building up core values & mission statement. Which are in my opinion a foundation for a healthy enterprise culture people:

  1. would like to fit in
  2. would sign up to
  3. would be proud of being member of

It's an absolutely first step in the pathway that would make them all stand on the same side.

It may sound like a brain-washing mumbo-jumbo, but it's reality I've experienced empirically. If people are aware of core values & are discretely (but continuously) reminded about them (ritualization deserves a separate blog post - coming soon), they start to keep referencing them in everyday events & circumstances. It makes them more confident in decisions they take, more aligned in plans they make. And guess what happens: they get a common ground, something that unites them & lets them make efforts together. Become better together.

The tribe, our tribe

People love the sense of belonging. It's an instinct everyone has. If they don't fulfil it, they will feel insecure, alone, unhappy, not engaged, surrounded by hostility, even paranoid. Core values & mission statement define the commonwealth & sense of identity within organization much better than the brand alone, for instance by legitimating the expectations of certain behaviors.

Of course they (mission statement, core values) don't just have to be present, they have to make sense, to capture the essence of the specifics of this organization, what makes it different from any other, similar one. Clear & clean, eye-catching & motivating credo of why people should appear in work each day. Direction worth struggling for - ambitious, maybe distant, but also credible, feasible & widely accepted. Something that could serve the purpose of fair judging whether someone is contributing towards company's goals altogether with the rest or maybe (s)he's only a pest, whose toxic behavior brings only harm and discourages others.

Pic: © animgoberlin - Fotolia.com