Showing posts with label cowden consulting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cowden consulting. Show all posts

Monday, 21 November 2016

Strategic Vision Drives Organisations Success

Drive Your Vision or Amlessly Drift 



In today’s world, driving your business vision is the only way to ensure you stay focused on where you want to go and not pulled by short-term fads and fashions. 
The words strategic planning used to mean a once a year offsite discussion about where the organisation is headed. That thinking would be turned into an updated business plan with expectations and outcomes to be delivered over that next year. That type of strategic planning the corporate away-day provide very little in the way of strategic thinking and subsequently provided no or very little strategic value. Corporate away days became more a morale booster, with team building and bonding as the only measure of development. The reason why was very simple, if there is no strategic intent, no strategic review or re-evaluation them there will be no strategic outcomes.   




Strategic thinking is more vital today for leaders of organisation than ever before. The need for organisations of any shape and size to be able to determine why they exist and where they intend to exist in their market has never ben stronger. Whether it is new players finding their first footing in their market, through to established players redefining where they are within their sector, the need for leaders to define their vision and validate their strategy to achieve that vision has become more critical than ever. The drivers of urgency are not just those of ever more powerful stakeholder expectation, but more demonstrably the globalisation of every market sector and the transparency of strategy in what it delivers to business. 


Problems with Strategic Thinking

The problem building a long-term strategic plan, the traditional cycle of business planning is that it is too long and therefore slow to react to rapidly changing business environments; particularly the slow speed of implementing traditional business plans, which has damaged the reputation and credibility of strategy. 

The slow pace of organizational change driven by traditional strategic business planning results in strategies which are out-of-date before they ready to deploy. 

The net result of this process is that organizations are sluggish to respond in fast-changing markets, left wrong-footed by new entrants in dynamic, high-growth markets leaving leaders frustrated and impotent in competing with agile, new entrants. In an technology driven world where disruptive online behaviours enable markets and customers to change overnight, thinking strategically can seen to be an outdated way of thinking.     
Developing effective strategies is vitally important because without them organisations become inward looking, focusing on efficiency at the expense of growth opportunity. Without strategic thinking leadership teams becomes operationally efficiency driven rather than customer focused.  

The key element of strategic thinking is the ability of leadership teams to look at what is driving change within any sector. Inspiring vision is about drawing intelligence from scratchy, vague or even 'invisible' data to make informed decisions about tomorrow's market and develop an aspirational strategy to achieve that vision.




Planning for Tomorrow

What do we know about what tomorrow will look like and what opportunities it will offer? Here are my five defining statements about the need for strategic thinking:- 
  1. It will happen whether we like it or not.
  2. Markets are always changing, new opportunities are always arising.
  3. If organisations strategically plan ahead they can successfully compete, rather than just survive by being a me too player.
  4. Strategic thinking has to be achieved and implemented faster than a market is developing if players wish to stay or move into more profitable, growing and sustainable market segments.
  5.  Without strategic thinking every organisation will go backwards in its market.


The Strategy Gap

The strategy gap: the lack of proactive strategic thinking is most often blamed on the lack of hard data 'facts' as the basis of making defined decisions. This has always been a factor in undermining the confidence leaders have in making plans for the future. 

As a result, strategic planning often focused on predicting the future based on historic trend lines, over-invest in gathering all available data, and produced a small number of safe directives often focused around the very near future, for the rest of the organization to execute.
This safety first approach to strategic planning leads to little steps, but is not really strategic thinking.  

"Genuine strategic thinking requires leaders to think of the future not based upon the past, but based upon the future market potential".   

With the advent of the internet there is now huge amounts of easily accessible affordable good data which is instantly and cheap to acquire. The world today has become a turbulent place, speed of change is no longer slowly evolutionary, but has become rapidly revolutionary in virtually every market. 

This has left the traditional strategic planning process with a fundamental problem, since the trusted, traditional and slow approach to strategic planning is based on assumptions that no longer hold. The static strategic plan is dead.

So why do strategy at all?  

Strategy is therefore under pressure as a process unlike never before.  If the outputs from traditional strategy, a traditional business plan with incremental evolution are no longer valued, then the value of strategy is being rightly questioned.  

The reason why strategy is not dead is that the strategic process, the way strategy is developed is essential in learning what is ‘right’, what is the future in a business sector.  This strategic approach to step out of your organisation and look at the market, defining internal aspirations and building the steps through experimental activity and forward pattern development enables shift culture to occur enabling agile strategy to be deployed. 


There are many renaming ceremonies for today's strategy process, all focusing on the move to redefine the strategic planning process, away from the traditional top-down long-term evolutionary strategic planning process to quicker, dynamic and responsive strategic thinking culture. This systematic and seismic shift in thinking away from process driven top down command and control process to one of continual strategic thinking culture. 


To make this shift to modern strategic thinking, leaders need to move away from traditional predictive planning to rapid prototyping supported by multifaceted experimenting.     


The second shift is that of 'frontline first' where leaders must enable the frontline with real decision-making authority. Successful strategic thinking requires objective and direction setting with a whole team focus.  Instead of a plan, the planning process is about whole team involvement in the mindset of goal achievement.              

The third and final major shift leaders need to focus on where the organisation is adding value to customers. As markets and customers rapidly change, who would have thought Google, the online search engine would be producing driverless cars, or Apple the IT company is managing middle-class health. 


What value any organisation customers value and are looking for is one of the major shifts which today's digital age is driving.   








Friday, 10 May 2013

Business Planning: What Goes Wrong and How to Plan An Effective Business Plan


The first rule for everyone in business, or going into business, is that a business plan is essential. Essential to get started, from validating your idea through to accessing funding, the business plan is the fundamental building block of any business.     

So why do so many people struggle to write effective business plans which they should be using as the corner stone of their business? Why do so many business owners rely upon key ideas held in their head and winging it, even with some of their biggest decisions?  And why do so few business owners trust, use and live their business plans?

Now these are all fair questions which individually leave business plans and business planning not valued outside those essential, must do to get started roles. For many, that experience is exactly why business plans and business planning gets such a bad press by business owners once they get past the start line.


What Goes Wrong

Fundamentally business planning has become a tool to get funding, not as your manual to drive your business. This bad habit, of building a business plan just to get past go, has resulted in huge effort to start on the right foot, but is not valued in keeping on the right track.  

The second major factor with business planning is that business owners often plan the wrong things. Writing a business plan is seen as "filling in the template" following the process and jamming words into format. They focus on producing financial figures which add-up, not on identifying the important factors which drive business success, such as developing and validating the right business model, or identifying real future growth opportunities and how the business is going to succeed in that market.  

A third major factor is that business planning often lacks solid forward information, too often relying upon historical data, the accountants view of what has happened, rather than looking forward to where markets are going. You can see this in many businesses whose business plan over focuses on turnover and cost management, rather than describing their model, their market opportunity, how they are going to enter the market successfully and therefore who their target audience is and why.      


Successful Business Owners Use Tools To Plan Successfully

Business owners do not live their plan because they simply don't believe in them, despite the fact they wrote it, or heavily influenced its writing. Owners need to use business planning tools to develop their business model effectively, creating solid foundations. There are a host a tried and tested business planning tools to help business owners effectively research their plan. using these business planning tools provides real evidence that underpins a good business plan.

Possibly the most important difference between businesses which succeed and exceed expectations and those which do not fulfill anything like their full potential is often the lack of solid foundations within their plan. A lack of research regarding their market, its nature and future, undermines confidence and knowledge of who the customer is and why they should buy your product or service.

Business owners over focus on the product or service not on the market, the target customer or market entry. What business planners need to focus on is quantifying and qualifying their market knowledge using business planning tools, to enable them to know what to put into their business plan, that provides the right evidence adds weight to your argument and provides a rationale behind the assumptions you make.  


Successful Business Owners Benefit From Using Business Planning Tools

The right business planning tools, used in the right order will provide business owners with the tools and the processes to go through to build an effective business plan, which is both reliable and robust, a solid base for making informed decisions about your business plan.

Using the right business planning tools, to research and inform your business plan, also provides confidence to business owners and senior management to trust your business plan. If you trust your business plan you are more likely to deliver it.

Using the right evidence, the right analysis and logical conclusions then business plans built upon effective use of logical step-by-step business planning tools provide business owners with a clear and robust plan with clear focus for their efforts. Using business planning tools makes business planning a value-added process built upon solid foundations, with clear insights about what's driving the market and why your business will be successful. 

Like to know more about business planning tools to build your business plan more successfully then click this link: business planning tools         
      
Here's some other thoughts about why you should be using Business Planning Tools to build your business plan on solid foundations why to use Business Planning Tools to build your business plan.            

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Cowden Consulting is a strategic planning and implementation business which works with business owners to grow and develop their business, with the tools to successfully build business plans, contact us to learn more: click herehttp://www.cowdenconsulting.co.uk.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Growth Opportunities for 2012



Despite the doom and gloom merchants who seem to be surrounding us today about where the economy is going and for how long we will have to live in recession there are still may areas of growth. Not everyone and everything is in recession. So I thought I would share a few strategic thoughts as to where I see growth in 2012.

In every market their are always growth opportunities, even if it is just for insolvency practitioners, accountants and journalists! But, ignoring these sectors where is real growth coming from? It does not take long before you can see that if you want to look for growth, you just need to look beyond the news headlines.


Headlines Aren't Real

Headlines tell (and continuously repeat) what's happening as an average across the entire economy, so slow growth coupled with a reduction of public sector spending means that slow adapting traditional companies will be feeling the pinch, particularly if their growth has disproportionately come from public sector spending. The key reason why headlines aren't real is that they only really report bad news (apart from that final ahhh... story) put in for the human touch element.  Bad news sells and grabs headlines, while success never gets a mention. 

Headlines only show averages and I've never met anyone who is average. No-one is ever average and so no business is ever average. So when looking for growth and success turn off the TV, radio and throw away the newspaper and on line news and start by looking at what's happening in the real economy.



Retailing

The high street is dead according to the every expert with up shops empty or closed and yet people still shop in ever increasing numbers and we are building more of them than ever before. Go tell companies like Apple, John Lewis or any of the major supermarket chains about the collapse of retail and they will laugh out loud at you. Retail is not dead, it is just changing and changing faster than many retailers can adapt.

Twenty years ago I worked with retailers advising them to add more value by making their stores more consumer friendly with information and better zoned retailing layouts. Today, retailers need to be adapting to embrace a web active consumers, bricks with clicks stores like John Lewis who will have grown their online e-commerce business to be around 20% of their business integrating it with their modern well designed retail estate. To ignore online in many sectors is like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, but working with it you can appeal to many customer groups by using online an integral part of the retail experience.            
Successful retailers are providing modern inviting retail spaces with mixed offerings of retail and consumption are doing well, particularly as part of larger venues. Strategically the big are getting bigger and the others must look to diversify. The number of retail environments is increasing, with many others planned.  The changing nature of our retail environment to larger integrated retail centres which is the key driver of change as consumers move from convenience shopping to shopping as an experience event, 2012 will see that strategic shift accelerate, Click here to see local data company You tube explanation for more details.   


Consumer

Knowing where the consumer is going in 2012 is vital for success for many UK businesses. Consumers are buying more and more high quality items. Luxury top-end brands are growing fast and the UK has several strengths to capitalise on, companies like the revitalised TATA Jaguar / Land Rover Group of top end vehicles has never been stronger, both at home and abroad. Land Rover's new Evoque for example had a pro-order of 27,000 vehicles, and both companies are investing in new plant and new models.

This changing shift in purchasing behaviour opens business opportunities for forward thinking business owners to look at higher value consumption, top-end brands are growing globally at over 20% with our ability to design great products is a great strength, from fashion to architecture we are world class and the opportunities for growth are significant.




 The Green Market
The green agenda is also a huge growth market in the UK, and its not just solar panels, although this is a great success and one which will survive the Governments ill-judged slashing of the Feed In Tariff (FIT). peopel buying green products and ethical, traditional and home made sre all opportunities for 2012.

The Green agenda, being promoted long-term through the Green Deal, where not only green products are going but also where huge growth for the home improvement market will come from in 2012, supported by new financial channels opening up to fund these domestic sector.

If you would like to learn more about consumer growth trends then here is a good source of of trends for 2012 at trend watching.


Mobile Markets 
The growth of SMART mobile phones is now a major emerging market, this growth currently 650 million in use set to grow to 1.3billion by 2016 provides a whole new market to exploit.

As the world goes mobile so whole new markets are emerging, from gambling to live offers and app building mobile customers are one huge growth market which smart companies are getting into.   




Exporting

Exporting, that old business strategy chestnut is always a mythical panacea for any struggling economy and a favourite for politicians looking for a quick solution to any problem.

Exporting though is not a catch-all, for example exporting to Greece may not be the best idea in the near future, but to elsewhere provides an excellent opportunity for UK business to exploit. BRIC countries, (Brazil, Russia, India and China) provide excellent opportunities for growth. These countries are developing huge new middle classes looking for the type of products which we design, make and retail.

Companies such as Paul Smith have demonstrated an excellent business strategy of balancing their business model with the classic third, third, third split of income which is up £20 million to £196 million this year evenly split across UK, EU and rest of world (ROW). By balancing their income streams they have driven their profits to £24 million this year.

Don't be frightened of looking at export markets as a strategy, we are an excellent exporting nation, people love British products, from cutting edge technology to fashion through to our heritage and education and you should be looking at these opportunities in 2012.       

  
Growth in the Middle East


The middle East is a new emerging market as it redefines itself after the impact of the Arab Spring in 2011. Companies such as Coca-Cola which is currently investing nearly $1 billion in the Middle East, click here for article. With oil becoming even more important supported with stable high prices, countries such as MENA (Middle East and North Africa) provide growth opportunities for UK companies. Their growing populations of young well educated and online connected middle classes (Face book and Twitter created and sustained the Arab Spring) these are sensible markets for many businesses to look at moving into.   


Why Strategic Planning Works

There are many sectors of the UK economy which are doing quite well and some are doing better than ever. The companies doing well in our economy demonstrate good strategic planning and are set-up to succeed. They can respond faster to changes and take advantage of changes to and within their markets. For 2012 their are going to be winners and losers as always.

The evidence is that those with a plan to succeed will do better than those without. Those who have a clear well defined strategic plan focused on where they want to go and with a plan to get them there will be more successful than those who wing it. 

Like to learn more then contact us at Cowden Consulting or see our website or social media channels for more about Cowden Consulting:-




Our services: business planning, strategic planning, business development and support services. 


Friday, 28 October 2011

Great LEADERSHIP is all about your VISION


Great LEADERSHIP is all about your VISION



Vision, is as we all know the most important leadership trait for a successful leader to have. That does not mean they can see but that they have a strategic vision for their business. Great leaders may be charismatic, they maybe forceful they may even be likeable, but for them to be successful they must have and be able to communicate and inspire others through their vision. 

According to Right Management consultancy’s survey of 1439 chief executives and senior HR people from 707 organizations across the globe found that the outstanding trait of successful leadership is the ability to create and communicate a VISION was the most important characteristic for success. The score of 92%, demonstrates just how important a characteristic this is across such a large number of very senior people in business.   





Business VISION
The Right Management consultancy http://www.right.com, which is owned by the Manpower group: http://www.manpower.com survey provides clear confirmation to everyone in leadership positions that the single most important factor for success is that of creating and communicating a clear vision to their people.   

“Without a clear vision no leader can succeed today in business”


Leader v Manager

The key difference between a leader and a manager is often simply summarised in that a leader sets direction while a manager ensures the delivery of the plan, or elements of it. This simplified statement is a good starting point in explaining how these two roles can be clearly defined.
The research, which is heavily influenced by North America, revealed that leaders evolve from a wide variety of backgrounds, experience and job functions within companies across a wide range of industries.  Western corporate CEOs are most likely to come from Operations and Finance, with more specialised areas providing a less likely route to becoming a chief executive.

Failing Chief Executives

Conversely, the top factors that contribute to the failure of chief executives include a wide-range of factors, which include both soft skills factors as well as the obvious failure to achieve acceptable results. The leading reason cited for failing chief executives is the failure to build relationships or team culture, reflects today’s’ importance of talent management.



The reflection that science is now more important than the science is evident:  “Leadership development today is more science than art,” said Sue Roffey-Jones, practice leader at Right Management. “In today’s business environment leadership development needs to be grounded in real work and focused on the critical competencies required for success in Chief executive level roles.”

Key Skills

The importance of being financial and operationally literate to the CEO role is also becoming more evident: “We would assume that people are promoted to CEO from operations and finance because they are perceived to have developed competencies that are important for the CEO role,” said Roffey-Jones. 

“However, given what research has revealed to be the critical competencies for a CEO, how would a company develop leaders who have demonstrated a track record of ‘Creating a strategic vision’ and ‘Inspiring others and maintaining leadership responsibility’ when these roles are more likely to be the fairly exclusive domain of the CEO?” said Roffey-Jones



Succession Planning
The importance of succession and smooth transition is becoming more important. With the exception of the sudden changes, such as BP’s sudden need to be seen to change direction in response to events, companies today are investing time and effort in succession planning. Good well planned succession planning ensures long-term shareholder value and the ability of avoiding the football management culture of change.     

Executives, board members and business leaders all recognise that talent management plans, including succession management have become essential for sustained performance in today’s organisations. 

If you want to develop your company's position then there needs to be a vision for it, where it is going and why. If your look for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.


Or learn how to plan your business successfully see our video to learn more:-  http://www.cowdenconsulting.co/uk  

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Cowden Consulting is a strategic planning and implementation business which works in partnership with customers to grow and develop their business, contact us to learn more.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A good business starts with the end in mind: have clear objectives.


Vision
Having a vision is vital to be successful in the long term, but having objectives will ensure you get you there. Clear milestones for everyone inside your company, top to bottom are the essential component of a successful company. Every successful company has clear goals, strategic ones the outrageous ones (global domination) through to achievable tactical objectives.

Without clear (SMART, see below) objectives company’s loose focus on its goal. Without objectives companies can fall victim to strategic drift, this month’s whim and next month’s quick idea.  Without cascaded objectives at every level, good people’s morale falls as they cannot see where how they are contributing to the company’s success. Without objectives everything else in planning and execution is a waste of paper, time and effort.  

Objectives
Objectives should be like a pyramid, with the big objectives at the top, but at every layer underneath there should be the sub objectives that make the bigger one happen. A well run organisation should therefore look like a pyramid, in terms of objectives, with everyone working on their goals which build up together to achieve the big picture goals. This form of management managing by objectives MBO, (not to be confused with a management buy-out MBO), allows people to focus on their objectives, which are aligned to higher goals.

Try not to have too many objectives to achieve. I always recommend no more than 5 per person. The reason why 5? Because it keeps people focused and not drowned in statistics. Even at the company level remember the old KISS concept of simplicity, if you have page after page of objectives some will suffer unless you can resource them. Focus on what really matters to the business, what drives performance and how are they made up. For people think about their Key Performance Indicators, KPI’s they are doing a good job if… Classical KPI’s usually include: revenue, margin, customer numbers, retention, growth, production, saving, are amongst the most common.      


Objective Setting
High performance companies often drive all their goals by setting team objectives which are then broken down into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each individual employee. Try not to give any individual or manager too many. An easy way to achieve that is to ensure they can remember and recall them with ease when you meet them.        

    The benefits of setting objectives:
1.       Objectives define the entire purpose of your business (or unit) in a couple of sentences or bullet points or set of numbers.
2.       Objectives are often identified as key performance indicators at the individual persons performance.
3.       The objectives that you set determine the quality of the strategy or tactics that you will adopt.
4.       Goals allow you to Manage By Objectives MBO which avoids time in argument and also helps in introducing a more participative management culture where employees are encouraged to set their own objectives.
5.       Clear KPI’s per person is a successful way to evaluate performance as long as the KPI’s are numerate or translatable into a numerate language.

Remember SMART criteria to define attributes of good objectives:

That is:
·         Specific
·         Measurable
·         Achievable
·         Realistic
·         Timely

 SMART criteria include:

1.       Both short range and long range targets should be set.
2.       Both quantitative and qualitative
3.       Clear. Put them in writing, to be achieved within a specified time frame.
4.       Measurable. So that they can be compared with actual results.
5.       Challenging. This is so that staff will put greater effort and be more motivated.
6.       Achievable. Avoid overly optimistic goals as this might be counter productive due to their demotivating nature. Goals should be realistic, reasonable, reachable and beatable. Avoid hidden goals and don't be over specific.

Hope that gets you thinking?

regards
 
Richard Gourlay 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Values matter in BUSINESS more than ever as Ikea have found out

In today’s information driven world, how you do business matters as much as the business you do as Ikea the iconic Swedish furniture retailer has just found out. Its green credentials have been dealt a massive blow.

Ikea only 16% sustainable wood
Ikea’s failure to achieve its own most modest target of 30% of its wood products to be from certified sustainable wood, will damage it its credibility heavily with its key audiences. The fact that it only hit 16%, has a massive blow on the values it professes as promoting sustainably sourced materials and to its environmental positioning, compared with Homebase (78%) and B&Q (77%), which won the best green award 2010.

The excuse given in its defensive press statement is that it has sacrificed the values of sustainability for rapid growth and protecting its profitability (£2.3billion), but short term greed like this can cost dearly on both growth and profitability over the long term.     

Ikea’s staff not telling the truth
This corporate failure was made worse by staff telling customers in store that its products are from sustainable sources, when they are from illegal logging in places such as Russia. This insatiable drive for growth, which so often undermines trusted names, may damage the Swedish brand’s position as the leader in the flat pack market significantly, as it will now undergo microscopic environmental and customer scrutiny.  

Ikea’s soft “long term” aspirational statements on their website with links to the Rainforest Alliance are unlikely to be seen as enough in the modern world where green wash marketing such as this are quickly exposed and penalised. When the spotlight of the green world is turned on, it is difficult to hide in the shade.

The World Bank suddenly in the late 1980’s promoted its ‘green credentials’ by promoting itself as having employed ‘an environmentalist’, to offset its image of chopping down forests for cash crops. This green wash story was quickly exposed when it was pointed out the World Bank employed some 5,000 economists, what difference would/could one environmentalist make?          

Values must be transparent
The way you provide your product or service and to whom, says more about you than how much business you do. Being big in a highly segmented world is no longer the determination of success. How you do your business now determines your current credibility and future success. Credibility is as much about your values in becoming successful as about the success you have. Mohamed Al-Fayed for example, despite buying Harrods, never shook off questions about his background.

Your values as an organisation as demonstrated by everyone inside your organisation matter to both existing and potential customers in choosing to do business with you. People have choices and they can now exercise them more freely than ever before, and that means customers can access information instantly to make choices that are more informed. Ikea’s staff misinforming undercover Times reporters about their sustainable and certified sourced products at a number of shops are one symptom of Ikea’s rapid growth boardroom culture.     

Values Must Live the Moment
Almost everything in life is in real time and instantly communicated to circles of influence and beyond. A restaurant having  bad night can have a poor reputation before the starter has even been cleared away as customers post live feed back to sites such as Qype or Trip Advisor . Therefore, before the waiter, maitre d’ or chef knows what’s happening the world outside already does by Twitter and Facebook and are cancelling their reservations in their droves.

Why clean lavatories matter?
The old adage that if you want to know how clean the restaurant kitchen is, inspect the lavatories, because they tell you how the restaurant values cleanliness, is a great example of modern customer awareness. Do you live your values or just post them on your website? Is the question customers want to know in establishing and experiencing trust with you and your brand.   

Rail companies learning fast
The recent story of the man on the train talking too loudly causing enraged customers to Tweet  complaints about his behaviour which was picked up by a duty manager hundreds of miles away who then contacted staff on the train to track down the loud caller and asked him to quieten down. 

This story is very much testimony to the growing demands of customer expectations, immediate online response, not waiting for passing train staff to react. This story is part of the reputation shift that train companies are actively pursuing.    

Values are in the detail
Values matter, they define the real differences between companies. How British Airways treats its customers through the values it embeds in its entire organisation is what makes it different to other premium airlines and distinguishes it from them, and from the bucket providers such as Ryanair.

However, as everyone de-layers in response to changing business models, cost and modernisation requirements, values can be lost in the rush to modernise and compete in new ways. BA’s changes to its premium dinner menu, introducing exotic main courses such as crocodile and ostrich sounded good but simultaneously cutting the After Eights, so there was not to go around 1st class passengers was a classic example of getting its values wrong in its customer’s eyes.  

Values Must Involve Everyone
If you value your customers then remember everyone needs to smile in their role, if you believe in providing excellent customer service then don’t cut your front of house staff numbers.

Too many companies’ ideas of communicating values are to place a statement on a website, brochure, at reception and on the induction training programme. How many companies look at the strategic advantage of values and embed it into people’s roles, asking staff to define their role by those values by redefining their role to live those values?  How many companies review those values as outcomes in winning and retaining customers?
     
Values as seen by Customers
Customers, potential and existing, are drowning in choice what makes you stand out to them is the values you own and can demonstrate. Statements on walls and websites always sound good, (possibly, because they are written by marketing people who do not work there) but unless the company lives them then they do more damage than good. Over promising and under delivering is a growing experience for everyone today.

Whether it is a London hotel, stating it’s exclusiveness, as evidenced by its 5 star, pretty pictures on the website of its presidential suite and over the top statements such as “sumptuous 5 star accommodation” the jaw dropping price tag. When you turn up and find a broom cupboard with not enough space to turn around in let alone swing a cat, and you are one of 500+ rooms filled with bus loads of tourist on a package holiday then company values are under pressure.  

The same is equally true for staff, why should people stay loyal to you if you don’t live those values and enshrine them in every one of your people. Do they live it or lip service it?

New company’s creating values
New companies have the unbridled opportunity to define their values from the start. By building them into their business model throughout the entire process from the beginning, providing value and clarity with every new role and new person, they can use their values to maximum leverage for attracting their chosen customers and staff.

So Googles' “DO NO HARM” value won many plaudits, breaking down the concern about the is was then rightly questioned by their policy in China of being seen to be supporting censorship (try typing Tienanmen Square Massacre into Google in China it never happened!). Now there is a good argument that rightly says any Google is better than no Google, but the contradiction against their stated values upset many Google Supporters elsewhere in the world.

Your values should come from within. What do you stand for? What does your company do? How should everyone do it? What does excellence look like? Some classic questions to understand the values you offer. I often ask people to think of an animal or car which best describes there organisation   

Keeping Values Alive       
 Established companies inherit values, often without realising they have them in place, “its how we do it around here” type phrases are often values hidden inside everyday activity. Keeping values alive is often hard in rapidly changing under-pressure environments. Changes in leadership, particularly when cross industry leadership is introduced or when new pressures are introduced from changing ownership for example often end up throwing out the hidden value of a brand in the race to achieve short-term results.  

Everyone entering a company, particularly top executives, must understand the core heritage values any organisation has, how they are owned and expressed. The best way to achieve that is for new people to present those values back under peer group review and add to them with the changes they intend to introduce. New products/services need to incorporate core values and learn to demonstrate them in new ways as new channels of communication are opened up.  

Values checklist
  1. Are your values visual to your team and customers?
  2. Does everyone know your core values, have you checked?
  3. Can all your people translate them into their daily role?
  4. Do people see the company values in other people’s roles within the organisation?
  5. Do customers comment on those values in their dealings with your company in formal and informal feedback channels?
If you can only answer confidently to only points one and two then you are not living your values. If you cannot hand on heart even answer those two them its probably time to look at your values in a lot more detail.

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