How to Make Your Organization’s Values and Principles More Effective

Organizations must have clear values and principles in order to be successful in modifying their culture. But to be meaningful, these values and principles must be expressed to employees in a manner that is clear to them and expresses the behaviours which will express the organization’s values.

Over the past couple of years we have experienced or seen or participated in mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, rightsizing, new visions, new directions, new products, and new services and so on. It is exhausting. These present so many challenges for the organization, its employees and its customers.

As organizations struggle to meet these challenges senior managers develop their strategic plans, re-think their vision and mission and try to engage their staff in the implementation of these strategic imperatives. However, these initiatives are often met with resistance. Why so? It is because the change initiatives rarely consider how the organization’s culture will change for employees. Values and Principles help to identify the culture that an organization establishes for how its employees will operate within its new environment. To be effective they must identify the behaviours and actions that are required for employees to successfully fit into the organization’s culture.

Why Values and Principles?

To successfully manage the organizational cultural impacts of these changes it is necessary to implement strategic change management process. It is important for all levels of staff to fully incorporate the change in everything they do. This will require that staff understand the changes required in their own behaviours as well as those of all other employees. Once understood they must be taken through a process which helps them to demonstrate a commitment to implementing these new behaviours.

To this end, it is important to identify the behaviours necessary for change to occur and a process for measuring all staff against the behaviours they will need to demonstrate to implement strategic change. The first and most important step in the implementation of change is to establish Values and Principles. Once these have been established, the organization will find it easier for employees to buy into and get engaged in the balance of the strategic change process.

What are Values and Principles?

Values and Principles help to identify the culture that an organization establishes for how its employees will operate within its new environment. They identify the behaviours and actions that are required to successfully fit into its culture. All too often they are placed on a wall as something to read in the organization’s lobby or in management offices. They need to get off the walls and be brought to life.

Values and Principles help to identify what the people working for the organization “stand for”. They are the foundation and key to its success. All levels of employees have a responsibility to understand these values and principles and to demonstrate them in their day-to-day actions and interactions.

Values are fundamental beliefs. The strengths of the organization will be built on these core values. They become the essence of the organization, understood and respected by all employees.

Principles are guides to behaviour. They guide how employees live their values and influence the results they achieve. In everything they do, the principles are applied with balance.

How do we Create Values and Principles?

  1. Create a cross-functional team to oversee and guide the development of the Values and Principles. This cross-functional team will be responsible for the management of these process steps.
  2. Brainstorm words that can be used to identify the actions and behaviours that employees will demonstrate that indicate a focus on quality, customers, other employees, management, etc.
  3. Organize these into the categories of Values (fundamental beliefs that become the essence of the organization and cherished by all employees) and Principles (guides to behaviours that demonstrate how employees demonstrate the values and therefore influences the results the organization achieves).
  4. Identify 4 to 6 Values and 4 to 6 Principles that everyone agrees are the most important.
    Review with all employees to gain their feedback.
  5. Develop behavioural descriptions (what behaviours and/or actions will an individual display that demonstrates their full realization of a Value or Principle) and attach to each Value or Principle.
  6. Review with all employees to gain their feedback, understanding and commitment.
  7. Develop a 360-Degree Feedback instrument that will be used by all employees to demonstrate their actual behaviours benchmarked against the expected behaviours.


Leaders often develop clear strategies around re-design, restructuring, new efficiencies, and so on, hoping to get everyone to share their vision. Then they create change programs around these strategies. However, more often then not, they end up fighting fires and crises. People don’t want to change. They don’t believe in the change. They often feel demoralized by change initiatives. The first and most important stage in their change process must be to create Values and Principles so that all staff will understand the expected behaviours in this “new organization”. Then they will be more accepting of the balance of the changes required.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

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