Shift #4: From Value to Values

Given its goal of making money for shareholders, the traditional organization was preoccupied with value, rather than values. Douglas Smith, in On Value and Values notes that “[v]alue connotes a pointed estimation of current or anticipated worth never too distant from monetary equivalence. There is no value that is not a dollar value….The plural, ‘values’, is very different from the singular, ‘value’. Values are estimations not of worth but of worthwhileness. Unlike value, talk of values ignores money; it opines on timeless appraisals instead of transient ones. There is a deep backward-­‐ and forward-­‐looking quality to values. If value is what makes us wealthy, values, we assume and regularly assert, are what make us human.”

In the traditional organization, a preoccupation with value encouraged firms to cut costs and eliminate the very things that are needed to generate the future and instead to pursue “bad profits”, i.e. profits made at the expense of customers. Such tactics are dangerous in today’s world: when customers know everything about a company, the increased transparency has effectively changed the rules of business forever.

When the firm’s goal shifts from making money for shareholders to providing more value to customers, there is a necessary shift from a preoccupation with value to a preoccupation with the values that will grow the business by generating innovation and customer delight.

The Power of Pull, Open Leadership, The Dragonfly Effect, and The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management thus point to the need for consistent adherence to values that are aligned both with delighting the client and motivating autonomous teams—radical transparency and continuous improvement, trust, honesty, caring for the environment and openness to outside ideas.