During my trip around the Middle East, I met a lot of banks looking at a lot of new ventures with lots of dialogue about new business models, new products and services, new organisational structures and new ways to communicate with staff, customers and stakeholders.
One of the key questions was how to maximise human resources.
OK, now you could debate whether humans are resources or assets or whatever, but the core of this answer was that humans need to be valued and have values.
We concurred that the clearest way to convince people of their role is to give them a very memorable understanding of what the company is about and then let them get on with it.
A kind of values or principles based organisational model.
Now I’ve seen this model in practice in many firms and they are often the best in their field.
These firms have vision, mission and values statements, but their statements rock and roll, are passionate and are lived by everyone in the company, not just the CEO.
Let’s take an example of the difference between a firm with passion and one without.
Here are two banks.
The first has a statement of vision, mission and values as follows:
To take our place as the most powerful, most profitable and most admired bank.
Having regard to ethical values, to meet our customers’ financial needs in the fastest and most appropriate way; to continue innovative works in order to achieve; and to have human resource with superior qualities, supported by the best technological infrastructure and service packages.
- To exceed customer expectations in service quality.
- To be a pioneer in the implementation of technologies that create great experiences for our customers, employees and shareholders.
- To keep our reliability at the utmost level through the contribution of a strong capital structure and liquid assets.
- To make a positive contribution to the community
- To respect meritocracy during hiring processes, improving knowledge and skills of its employees, creating the most preferred work environment.
These are laudable statements, but they fail.
The reason they fail is that no-one can remember them.
Turn away from the screen now, and tell me what this bank’s third value is.
You can’t remember, can you?
Even if you went to this screen every single day and read these statements, I doubt that over the weekend with your family you could tell them what your company’s vision, mission and values are.
You may think it’s because you don’t work for this bank that you cannot remember them, but even if the bank rolled this out with dry mist and bass beats of One Direction blaring out through the conference hall, give it a week and I bet these statements are forgotten.
This is because most companies create such vision, mission and values from formulaic workbooks and workshops, using facilitating consultants who lack passion.
Believe me, I’ve been there and done the workshops, got the t-shirt and wear the badge.
Now let’s try a different bank.
Here’s their vision, values and mission.
Vision: to be the FIRST choice bank.
Mission: to have our customers always vote us FIRST choice.
It’s very similar to the previous set of visions, values and mission, but it’s simplified, targeted and memorable.
What is this bank’s third value?
I bet you remember now, as the acronym FIRST makes it easy to remember.
But it’s not just a veneer over the top of the organisation, but a layered approach with detail behind each value about how it is measured and managed.
This is why every person from the CEO to the Janitor knew how friendly, informed, responsive, service-oriented and trustworthy was measured and rewarded.
Everyone remembered the program.
They knew that Friendly meant don’t read from scripts.
Informed means that you must know how to describe the firm’s products and services in a way that is easy to understand for the customer.
Responsive means dealing with customer’s questions fast.
Service-oriented means being clear about what the customer needs and how to deliver.
Trustworthy means only sell what the customer needs and not what they don’t.
No PPI mis-selling or subprime mortgages at this bank.
I could take this dialogue much further and into more depth, but the difference between the former and latter banks is that values are something that should live and breathe in a bank, or any other firm for that matter.
They are not a plaque on the wall or a paper on the desk, but the way in which the bank thinks, acts and behaves.
They are shared from the CEO to the Janitor and are so memorable that all of the company can articulate what these values mean for the bank and for them as an individual.
In other words, it becomes the bank’s culture.
It’s heart and soul.
It’s the guiding light by which people behave when no one is watching.
This last piece is Bob Diamond’s statement from his BBC 2011 Lecture: “For me, the evidence of culture is how people behave when no-one is watching”.
How do people know how to behave when no-one is watching?
How do they know right and wrong?
Because the bank’s shared their values with them and made it quite clear: “our value is to be trustworthy by selling the customer the right things, treat them as the centre of your focus and view the customer as being King or Queen.”
Alternatively: “our values are to be rich by selling the customer whatever they will buy, treat them as punters and view the customer as a muppet.”
Yep, values, visions and missions are simple.
It’s about culture and about the way the bank behaves from the top-down, not when no-one is watching.