There’s a trend today to bypass the process of defining values when creating organizational strategy. After all, the cynics ask, why spend time defining what are too often merely trite words? However, operating with no stated values is like playing a game with no known ‘out of bounds.’ For instance, setting a goal to grow profits by 10% with no stated requirement to do so ethically creates the type of negative situations we hear about too frequently: high pressure tactics, sales trickery, and questionable customer contracts. Stated values that are clearly visible across the organization and which are reinforced through organizational communication and coaching, identifies the lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Honesty, and its close cousin integrity, are commonly chosen as words to describe organizational values. No company sets out to be dishonest, though many end up being just that. Arthur Andersen was the person behind the accounting firm, founded in 1913, which carried his name. He chose to define the values of his firm, listing first “integrity and honesty.” Sadly by 2002, the firm had become the poster child for dishonesty, and it ultimately ceased to exist amid a flurry of criminal charges. Thankfully, Mr. Andersen was not alive when the whole thing fell apart!
Embedding the value of honesty into your strategy requires that you are realistic about the goals for the organization. Although goals are always set with the belief that they can be achieved, how do we make sure that what we say we’ll do gets done? There’s no guarantee, but being realistic is a good start. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully for three years to achieve a certain growth target, why set the same goal again? If we don’t achieve these goals, it doesn’t mean we set out to be dishonest, but at some level perhaps we aren’t being honest with our team or ourselves.
Once we’ve established meaningful values and agreed to achievable goals, it’s time to execute. Holding ourselves accountable to our goals with regular check-ins and honestly acknowledging gaps when they are identified is a vital step to ensure we’re being honest about our strategy.
Truth be told, honesty really is the best strategy.