All companies have its DNA which can be traced back to the time of its birth, to the decisions and actions taken over the years. It is natural to persist with things that have worked for you. It is natural to reward those who have contributed to the success. There is clarity and there is no conflict in such a scenario.
Somewhere along the way however, you find some reputed companies are respected for things other than profit making. They profess to take care of the interests of all stake holders in a balanced manner including the local communities. Taking a cue, other companies then feel that it is necessary to declare that they believe in some values and that the company intends to function and live by those values.
This however can be a tall order since for many years you have actually lived by some other values.It is okay if you are merely required to pay lip sympathy. But if actual implimentation is desired it can be very difficult since the new values could be totally opposed to the values that have become second nature on account of practce for many years. It has also got you success and enabled you to reach where you are.
It is similar to that of a man who from humble beginnings worked hard and became rich. During the initial phases, his focus was only on making money. Not very educated himself, he got his three daughters to be reasonably educated. But suddenly he realises that more respect seemed to be extended to those educated as doctors or engineers (particularly in the 60s or 70s in India) rather than businessmen who had more money. Hence going by what the the society of the day deemed honourable, when it was time to choose grooms for his daughters, he prefers doctors or engineers.
He was not particularly comfortable with the sons in law's aspirations or priorities of life but made peace with them as demanded by the situation. But on occasions his natural inclinations, priorites and instincts would spring forth and he knew that they were not in tune with theirs. Is this facade which does not allow you to be your natural self, a big prize to pay merely for socieity's envy or appreciation? Would this person have been happier with a business man son in law?
Coming back to the corporate situation,in this interesting scenario after company declares its values which have not necessarily evolved from within, two schools could emerge. Some people could believe that the newly declared corporate values are sacrosanct, very dear to the company and that its future depends on regular and consistant practice of these values. Many others on the other hand could believe that all these are frills being given too much attention and that success is dependant on continuing the time tested practces that got you success in the first place. The matter is complicated further if the top management do not think and speak in the same voice but are themselves confused and torn between these two positions.
The former school may feel impatient that reforms and improvement are not happenining at the required pace. They feel that the successful implimentation may even be delayed till the retirement of the old timers who hold on to status quo tightly and are at the most, willing to allow only 'cosmetic changes'.
The other school on the other hand is frustrated that whatever they have built up painstakingly and achieved will be thrown away by these 'arm chair strategists' who may end up as the cause of downfall of the company like how the mighty soviet union fell after implimenting 'perestroika' (restructuring) and 'glasnost' (transparency) concepts of Mikhail Gorbachev. At best they would like to give lip sympathy to changes demanded by these values and continue to do what has worked best for the company so far.
I had opportunity to witness a brainstorming session of a company wrestling with similar challenges. Predictably, we had representatives of both schools expessing themselves but neither was able to break common ground. To my mind, patience is the key to success in such situations. Both the schools of thought need to empathise and appreciate the views of the other.
But first the company needs to have have clarity with regard to its corporate values. Are they evolved from within? Do most people believe in its relevance and significance for success in the coming years? If people don't believe, appreciate and imbibe the values, it is doomed to fail in the application arena. One might as well hold on to what is true and real for the organization. However once the company is agreed on the need for change and fresh air in order to be relevant in the days to come, like I mentioned earlier both the schools of thought need to empathise and appreciate the views of the other
Those tending to lean more towards status quo, need to appreciate that in the long run, it is companies that have a balanced growth and give due weightage to the interests of all stake holders that succeed. Focus on profits alone will not enable a company to move from being a good company to a great company.
Similarly the impatient reformers need to accept the fact that success will come in small baby steps taken towards the goal and that it is okay. After all as they say, Rome was not built in a day. People, would find it difficult to let go of practices that have become second nature to them and also brought them success this far.
If you wish to change the set ways of their working, they need to be given sufficient and consistent reasons as to how such changes will benefit the company. A lot of education needs to be done which can be time consuming but worth the effort. At the end of the day, the fact remains that both schools wish the well being of the company. It is just that for now, they are not convinced by the reasonong or positions taken by the other party.
Corporate values are signposts for where you are going. When in doubt, when taking decisions you just have to look at them and ask yourself "Am I being true to this corporate value?" and Go ahead if the answer is "yes" and drop it if it is "no". Senior leaders need to speak in one voice and at every opportunity, about the correct ways of practicing the corporate values of the company. Examples both 'good' and 'bad' related to the practice of these values need to be shared and discussed frequently throughout the company.
If all of the above is done with dedication,with time, it could be sooner than later, that every one spontaneously practices in letter and spirit everything espoused in the corporate values. Success is then assured and the company earns the right to be desribed as 'Great' and not just 'Good'