Changing Perception relies on Values

Oh WOW, the energy levels in the room shot up.  There was a mix of indignation, anger, disbelief and wishing.  This Manager had the audacity to say he based the salary figures on what he considered the others worth…

The meeting had been arranged to discuss how the company could action its newly formed Values. This meeting followed several communications with the Sponsor of the project.  Several meetings prior to my engagement had taken place in distilling the Values to the company.

In attendance at this meeting (my first), there are seven managers (their umpteenth), one of the managers being the Sponsor and Meeting Chair. My role was to facilitate the meeting. I had very clear objectives that were to be met.

The Value behind your Company’s Values

Sitting around the table were very, very different personalities. There was a good age range and not unsurprisingly a good level of experiences.  Included within the meeting was a variance in energy around the subject.

The company prided itself on their shared values. This was very evident from the posters around the company, the website and not least the conversation that I had had with the sponsor of the meeting.

What was less evident was the agreement amongst the seven members on what the values represented. It became apparent that each of the seven members, whilst able to list the company’s values, were unable to agree on what each value represented.

This was demonstrated when we discussed the meaning of ‘Excellence’, specifically ‘Excellence’ with regards to Customer Experience. Some of the member’s definition of excellence was giving their customers the personal touch, this was carried out through phone calls, face-to-face meetings and any form of personal and one-to-one communication. Others believed that ‘Excellence’ should be about convenience for the customer, and this could best be demonstrated through technology.  Others felt it had additional meanings.   Opinions were coming thick and fast.   Seven senior Managers all with their own opinions, all with their own definition of ‘Excellence’ and each and every one valid.

All very straight forward to this point…

It just got interesting

One Manager (who I was sitting opposite) felt the meeting was a tick in the box exercise; He started by expressing his annoyance at his mandatory attendance and followed this up with “I prepared a report before the meeting”. He proceeded to hand out a document showing his workings on how much this meeting alone cost; he based this on what he thought each Manager was worth and what I was paid.

Oh WOW, the energy levels in the room shot up.  There was a mix of indignation, anger, disbelief and wishing.  This Manager had the audacity to say he based the salary figures on what he considered the others worth…

Certainly one way of raising the energy, not one that I would advocate.

Here was a senior Manager who came with his own agenda, looking to prove a point and not carrying it out successfully.   He had no intention of contributing to the meeting subject; in fact his intention was to disrupt the meeting.

By most accounts, he had worked for the company for many years, knew everything, was a black hat thinker, sometimes had flashes of inspiration (getting fewer and fewer) and occasionally delivered some great work (although happening less and less).   I witnessed extremely poor judgement and communication delivery.

Why had he chosen this meeting to drive his point home?

What happened next?

I immediately called a break in the meeting; suggesting that we take 15 minutes to collect our thoughts and grab a refreshment.  During the 15 minutes, I sat down with the rogue Manager. He felt the meeting was trivial, that a series of ‘Value’ action meetings were ridiculous, “just another excuse for Marketing and HR to flex their muscles”.  He didn’t want to be told what he had to do (mandatory attendance) and that in his opinion the attendees were the wrong audience.

With only 15 minutes to make a decision on the meeting, I engaged the stakeholder (who was one of the seven Managers) and he agreed (at my insistence) that the rogue Manager be removed from the meeting as he was a liability.  Valid as some of his points were, his choice of platform, timing and execution was not appropriate.

As the other Managers filed back into the room, it was clear there were still unfinished business.  One of the Manager’s highlighted that the series of meetings planned (this was the first) to discuss actioning Values was premature.

It was clear the Managers could not agree on what each of the Values represented or that they had fully bought into the Value transformation.

Change of focus

After all with any well thought through Change, time to digest and buy-in is key.  Time had not been a factor in the Project and buy-in was assumed and not earned.

The meeting topic was halted; focus was changed; the new direction of the meeting was focussing on the Change Process and what this would look like…


Three months following this meeting, the project is now looking very different to the original plan and timelines.  Definitions have been agreed on what the Values represent.

Focus is on internal buy-in before plans are laid out for external commissions.   Managers are being developed to deliver the Change process within their own teams…  and how to support their teams through the transformation.

An interesting adjustment to the original plan.

How many times do you assume that Change will just be successful?  With a bit of planning, it will happen?  How often are you correct?

Change to the business from small changes to significant and complex transformational changes, takes planning, perseverance and time.