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Behaviours are the physical demonstration of values. If you observe someone for a day, listen to their conversations, and see how they react to the situations they encounter, you will be able to deduce their values.

Every espoused value that is chosen by an organisation should be described by two or three behaviour statements.

The purpose of developing behaviour statements is twofold:

  • To give clarity to what an espoused value means in the context of the day-to-day operations of the organisation; and,
  • To provide a way of evaluating executive and employee performance. 

Let me remind you that values are concepts that transcend contexts, whereas behaviours are contextual. For this reason it is not unusual for different parts of an organisation to operate with the same values but with different behaviours. The behaviours should:

  • Be short one-sentence statements so they are memorable
  • Describe the actions that support the value they represent
  • Be appropriate for the context of the work unit

It is quite normal and desirable for significant numbers of employees to be involved in the process of choosing values and developing behaviours. When IBM chose their new values they invited all their employees over a two-day period to an internet event. The process of choosing values and developing behaviour statements is discussed in more detail in my third book—Building a Values-Driven Organisation.

In order to give clear guidance about what their values mean, Mars a well-known privately held food company, have listed their espoused values on their website and have created short videos using employees from different countries to describe what the espoused values mean to them at a practical level. What you effectively witness through these videos are the values and behaviours in action.  You are left in now doubt what the values mean to employees in terms of their day to day behaviours.


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Chapter 20: Internal Cohesion in Organisations