Core Values

During 2005, my last employer asked us to answer about 60 questions that revealed personal values (roughly speaking, the things that are important to us and guide our thoughts). Yes, it’s a little airy-fairy, but when the data from all of our staff from all of our offices was collated and presented graphically, it was rather interesting.

Firstly, there was a radar diagram representing a “Schwartz Chart”:


I believe that Schwartz, Shalom H. and Wolfgang Bilsky were responsible for this work. The Schwartz Value Inventory (SVI) contains a number of motivational domains. These domains reflect either an individualistic or a collectivistic interest dimension, or both, and they can be grouped into two dimensional structures composed of four higher order dimensions (openness to change, self-enhancement, conservation, self-transcendence) that are basic and bipolar. More can be found be following the references found here (worth reading if you want to make sense of the screenshots in this post).

This isn’t actually my radar diagram; if I can locate it I will update this post (I can’t seem to put my finger on it right now). To arrive at this diagram a number of employees were asked to complete a questionnaire comprising of about 70 or so questions. The questions were then used to determine the plot points on the radar diagram. The plot points relate to such things as: peace between people, broadminded, honest, honouring older more experienced others, respect for tradition, and so on, leading up to social recognition, meaning in work and choosing own goals:

Conservatism: national security, reprocation of favors, honoring elders, family security, respect for tradition, wisdom…
Intellectual Autonomy: curious, broadminded, creativity…
Affective Autonomy : enjoying life, exciting life, pleasure…
Egalitarian Commitment: social justice, world at peace, responsibility, freedom, equality…
Harmony: world of beauty, protecting environment, …
Mastery: successful, capable, choosing own goals, daring, independent ,…
Hierarchy: wealth, social power, authority…

There is a lot of moderately useful information present in the radar diagram. Further, it does demonstrate three things:

1) The organisational average (light blue, area)
2) The participant’s positioning (orange, line)
3) The standard deviation across the whole organisation (dark blue, line)

Secondly, there was a Values Categories Chart:


Now I realise that you probably can’t read these in detail, don’t worry, they are purely for demonstration purposes, I won’t be testing you on them later on.

During 2006, before I left this employer, we were asked to answer two questions based on the previous study:

1. “What should be the most important values in [your employment]? And Why?
2. “Choose 5 Values which you think should be the core values of [your employer] and will differentiate us from our competitors”

Here are my first-cut answers:

Question 1
I believe that the most important values that we should be nurturing and promoting are:

We must think out of the box. Regular, lemming-like, thinking just won’t do at all. If you stifle creativity, the morale of individuals and teams takes a hit and folks leave. Thinking out of the box, seeing the bigger picture and beyond will help us discover better, more efficient ways of delivering excellent service that is innovative, daring and award-winning.

Risk needs to be managed. Instead of stomping down on daring creativity and daring innovation, “these risks are too great”, open your eyes, accept that some risk is good. Risk that is accepted in a positive fashion will see teams and individuals work harder and smarter to ensure that they can achieve the dare and thus enjoy the success of a job well done. Stamp down on the dare (risk) and it will just serve to de-motivate.

Yes, some jobs, bread’n’butter jobs may not require much in the way of new thinking. However, the importance of new ideas, fresh creativity, taking a little risk for large gain all promote innovation. Clients like new ideas, they like to see folks “doing something out of the ordinary”.

Very few jobs are so simple that they require no learning (perhaps with the exception of some benign admin/overhead tasks). Individuals and team members should be given the opportunity to learn such that they can provide a better service that is more creative, more innovative and more daring.

Demonstrable evidence that the individual and team are able to do the job in hand.

As individuals working on a client project, we need to be capable of influencing and motivating; peer-group awards and qualifications suggest individuals are influential in their given sphere; team awards are even better. Don’t ignore awards from external organisations, if an employee has “done a good job” and been awarded for that job, recognise it.

Without influence and success, individuals and teams will struggle. A track-record has its place. Success comes from many places: being helpful, being influential, being positive, being supportive, being polite, being encouraging, being community-oriented, the list goes on.

We (not just IT) need to be seen to be bending over backwards to help our clients and fellow workers. And if we made a mistake, it’s helpful if we admit to that mistake right away and bring a solution to the table during that admission.

Similar thoughts to creativity – parochially-minded individuals need not apply. We need to be willing to accept new ideas, new thinking, what worked before might not be best now.

Choosing own goals
Don’t tell individuals and teams how to do their jobs. Let them get involved with the client, the project manager, let them prioritise activities in conjunction with the client. Don’t force them to accept stretch targets that you know they are unhappy with – promote communication from the ground up, it will increase morale and give the project a better chance of succeeding.

Question 2
Five core values:


I don’t know what became of the study, I left this employer just after I submitted my answers to these two questions. The study itself took rather a long time, spanning some seven or eight months (until my departure) and saw some staff hearing the phrase “disciplinary action” in order to gee them up into completing the original 60 or so questions (not me I hasten to add!). Who knows, may be the answers to the two questions provide some insight into who I am?

[Originally written January 2006, not posted. Revised April 2006]