Friday, September 05, 2008

The Power of A Universal Vision

Are you part of an organization? What are the values of your organization? What is the purpose of the organization? Why does the organization do what it does? How is the organization to carry out the values stated in its value statement or mission statement? Most organizations have a vision statement and mission statement that state the values of that organization. But do the values of your organization exist outside a file folder?

Some organizations put their mission statement on there website. Some go as far as making it a basis for their company motto or slogan. Some organizations display their values statement on a wall in public view. But how many organizations communicate there values to their members or employees. Are company values stressed during training? How often do employees here about organization values outside of training? Are the stated values of an organization lived by everyone from the Chairman to the custodian?

I am not talking about the issue of organization values because policies need to be universally enforced. I am addressing this issue because of the potential power of shared organizational values. Having a commonly shared set of values helps to provide guidance and direction. Having values that are enforced and are a part of an organizational culture helps to decrease uncertainty. Clearly communicated and enforced values provide guidance when the answer to a question wasn't covered in training. A shared and understood vision and mission decreases uncertainty and positively effects organization loyalty and unity.

To external audiences and customers a consistent demonstration of organization values provides a consistent image. Consistently demonstrated values can help develop customer confidence in your organization. A consistent demonstration of organization values can also promote an understanding of what people can expect when they interact with your organization. To be consistent an organization must work to ensure their values are apparent every time someone has contact with their organization. Consistently supported organization values can also gain you social capital. This social capital can help an organization through unfortunate events which have the potential to harm the reputation of an organization.

Such a situation that demonstrates these concepts occured while I was working at a themepark. A situation occured that resulted in the police closing one of our customer parking lots for several hours. This event was widely covered by media helicopters. It was the middle of July and 95 degrees in the shade. Customers were already irritable. The several hundred customers who were wanting to leave were not happy when they found out the lot was barricaded.

A connector rail line that ran over the closed parking lot had been shut down out of a concern for safety. Many of our customers used this rail line to enter and leave our park entrance. So a front line supervisor stationed a themepark employee at the rail line platform entrance nearest our park entrance. All employees knew was the rail line was down and a shuttle service was being provided to replace the rail line. The employee assigned to the plaform answered questions. The assigned employee also directed customers to a nearby shuttle service that made the same stops as the rail line. Customers knew something was going on. But based on the social capital of our company they cooperated and trusted we had things under control.

Managers passed out free bottled water and snacks to customers who were waiting for access to their car. Managers also provided free themepark food court meal vouchers to any customer who was waiting for their car and wanted lunch. Regardless of the situation everyone was responsible for ensuring every customer had a positive experience with our organization. Our consistent demonstration of this organization value made customers aware of our commitment to their having a positive experience. It also reinforced our previous efforts to demonstrate this organizational value.

To have any meaning or value organization values must become universal within an organization. Everyone from the Chairperson to the custodian should be able to state the values of an organization. More importantly every member of an organization must consistently live the values of their organization.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was quoted as saying the following when asked about consistency,"We have to get it right every time. They only have to get it right once in a while." Most organizations don't face the level of risk Secretary Ridge faced. But if you think about it in the eyes of customers you do have to get it right every time. Customers see routine as the standard. They don't see the amazing organization it takes to accomplish routine. But they will immediately notice when something goes wrong. Anyone can get it right when everything is perfect. It takes a values driven organization to keep things going when everything is going wrong.

If you have organizational values that are universal you will have the social capital to address any concerns when you don't get it right. Your employees will implicitely know what to do when something goes wrong.