Getting more participation really makes a difference, giving you more insights and more ideas, and at the end of the process, most importantly, much more extensive buy-in.
The actual process of creating values, incidentally, has to be iterative. The executive team may come up with a first version, but it should be just that, a first version. Such a document should go out to be poked and probed by people all over an organization, over and over again. And the executive team has to go out of their way to be sure theyve created an atmosphere where people feel it is their obligation to contribute.
Now, if youre in a company where speaking up gets you whacked, this method of developing values just isnt going to work. I understand that, and as long as you stay, youre going to have to live with that generic plaque in the front hall.
But if youre at a company that does welcome debateand many doshame on you if you dont contribute to the process. If you want values and behaviors that you understand and can live with yourself, you have to make the case for them.
Its in the Nitty-Gritty Details
When I first became CEO, I was certainly guilty of endorsing vague, too cryptic values. For instance, in 1981, I wrote in the annual report that GE leaders face reality and live excellence and feel ownership. These platitudes sure sounded good, but they had a long way to go toward describing real behaviors.
By 1991, we had made a lot of progress. Over the course of the previous three years, more than five thousand employees spent some portion of their time participating in the development of our values. The result was much more concrete. We printed them on laminated wallet cards. The text included imperatives such as Act in a boundaryless fashionalways search for and apply the best ideas regardless of their source and Be intolerant of bureaucracy and See change for the growth opportunity it brings.
Of course, some of these behaviors required further explanation and interpretation. And we did that all the time, at meetings, during appraisals, and at the watercooler.
Since leaving GE, Ive realized how much further still we might have been able to push the discussion about values and behaviors. In 2004, I watched Jamie Dimon and Bill Harrison work together to develop values and behaviors for the new company created by the merger of Bank One and JP Morgan Chase. The document they used to open the dialogue came from Bank One, and it listed values and their corresponding behaviors with a level of detail I had never seen before.
Take the value We treat customers the way we would want to be treated. Thats pretty tangible, but Bank One had literally identified the ten or twelve behaviors that made that value come to life. Here are some of them:
Some of the prescribed behaviors included:
If this level of detail feels overwhelming and even doctrinaire to you, I can
sympathize. When I first saw Jamies single-spaced, five-page
values-and-behaviors document, I nearly fell over. But as I read it, I saw its
The foregoing is excerpted from Winning by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY.
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