Are values enough?

The linked article caught my eye recently and I thought I would share some thoughts on The Business of Communicating Values.

The discussion of Values – the way that they flow through an organization and are aligned vertically, horizontally and even diagonally across the organization and drive behaviors is the purpose of this blog.

I had a good day earlier this week.  My morning started as a facilitator of the Cleveland Clinic Experience for a group of our incoming residents.  Over 40,000 Clinic caregivers have been through this 3 hour program that aligns all caregivers around the Clinic’s Mission, Vision, Values and expected service behaviors.  Two hundred attendees seated at tables of ten people, with a facilitator at each table to guide the discussion, discuss their roles in providing our patients with world-class care. 

 It has been great having the opportunity to talk with fellow caregivers and hear their stories.  Yesterday, I was struck by the diversity of the group I was facilitating.  Young doctors from Las Vegas, Utah, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Russia, China, India shared their experiences.  We talked about how we will all need to work as a team to provide each other with the best possible employee experience.  This positive employee experience reinforces and supports our ability to provide our patients with the best possible patient experience as we continue to provide the best possible clinical outcomes.  The discussion is centered around how we all need to adhere to our stated values of Integrity, Teamwork, Innovation, Service, Quality and Compassion. 

Where stated organizational values differ from individually practiced values, organizations suffer from waste.  Wasted time, poor communication, bad decisions, waiting due to confusion, and on and on.  Being able to identify where and why this misalignment occurs is where organizational development and lean systems and tools are used to align the organization towards its stated  mission and goals. 

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities along with clear communication channels and standards provide employees the freedom and confidence to make decisions.  It is the ultimate expression of  the lean principle of “Respect for the Individual”.

I’ve been fortunate to attend some of the best training on organizations that exists and have learned about organizational and individual behavior from the very knowledgable people I’ve worked with.  The Cleveland Clinic Experience is an ambitious, well-designed cultural alignment tool and has served its purpose to communicate the Mission, Values and expected service behaviors to all caregivers and anchor them to our Guiding Principle of  “Patients First”.   We will be assessing the results over time to measure the effectiveness of this alignment exercise.

So how are other organizations aligning and assessing their values?

Organizations which are using the Shingo Prize model benefit from a well-thought out assessment model that focuses on assessing behaviors – in addition to business results – to determine the extent to which the organizatoin has transformed into a Principle-based organization.  In addition to the assessment model, the Shingo Prize has crafted a great visual of what the organizational transformation should look like.

The training offered to Shingo Prize examiners is by far the best I’ve attended.  In it, the discussion about values goes deeper than any other discussion I’ve heard or read about.  

To briefly summarize a key point in the model – stated values are  important for organizations and the individuals working in them, however,  those values need to be anchored to the proper guiding principles.  Stated values and alignment are not enough.  It is the Guiding Principles that determine the direction the organization takes.

The example used in the training lists the values of “teamwork”, “innovation”, “precision”, and “loyalty”.  These values can be claimed and displayed by many organizations – including a gang of robbers who steal from others.  Without guiding principles to anchor to, such as Respect for the Individual, values are just descriptive words.  When anchored to guiding principles, values drive desired behaviors.

The guiding principles of  operational excellence as expressed in the Shingo Prize  Model provide organizations with a framework to work within and the transformational model presented helps organizations understand how Guiding Principles need to be supported by Systems that are aligned with the Principles.  These systems are then used to select the appropriate Tools to achieve the desired Results that affirm the organization’s stated Guiding Principles, which are apparent in the behavioral evidence observed in the culture of the organization.  Brilliant!

The HBR article reference at the top of this post is good, however, I would encourage you to take some time to read the Shingo Prize model and guidelines to get a glimpse of what Operational Excellence looks like.  This is the stuff that we need to be teaching in our Business and Medical schools.

(Disclaimer –  This post does not represent an endorsement of the Shingo Prize model by the Cleveland Clinic.  The opinions expressed are based on my personal experience as a Shingo Prize examiner and a member of the Healthcare Value Network’s assessment development team.)

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