Values and Value Threats: Many of Us Have Been through the Exercise of Generating Mission, Vision and Values Statements. Even More of Us Have Seen the Abandonment of Mission, Vision and Values as the Realities of Day-to-Day Business Take Over

By Zahlis, Dan | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Values and Value Threats: Many of Us Have Been through the Exercise of Generating Mission, Vision and Values Statements. Even More of Us Have Seen the Abandonment of Mission, Vision and Values as the Realities of Day-to-Day Business Take Over


Zahlis, Dan, Occupational Hazards


Navigating the maze of hall-ways and meeting rooms at city hall, I took a moment to read over the posters adorning the walls. I saw letters of commitment, pledges to employees and citizens and the all-important mission, vision and values statement.

I eventually was ushered into the mayor's private conference room. This meeting was the result of a bold request by me, because I thought we could offer him a way to help his city and local businesses tame the workers' compensation beast. Since the mayor is a fellow actor and friend of California's "Governator," we also were hoping for an opportunity to invite the entire state to participate in the Active Agenda.

What had prompted my request was television appearance by the mayor, which was wrought with an understanding that culture is key to performance. We just knew he would embrace the Active Agenda.

And then it happened. City employees from the risk management department began to funnel into my "private" meeting with the mayor.

Recognizing this wasn't going to be the informal meeting we had hoped for, I began to explain Active Agenda to the risk management staff. "The city already has one," one of the employees politely interrupted me. "One what?" I had to ask. Software that tracks injuries and disabilities and does statistics." I assured this fellow that the Active Agenda was quite different from his traditional description, and it was far more than a product. He reassured me the city "had one."

I explained that we were not trying to sell them anything. We were trying to solicit their participation in an Active Agenda to share ideas and reduce risk around the globe.

Core Values

I asked the attendees if the city had a list of core values. This was offered as an opportunity for the mayor to give the speech I had seen on television.

As expected, the mayor sat up straight and began reciting the city's core values and reinforcing the pride the city takes in its employee-formulated values. He rattled off the values precisely as I had seen them listed on the poster in the lobby.

Already expecting what the answer would be, I asked, "How often do you threaten or violate your core values? In other words, how often do you say one thing and do another? How frequently, and formally, do the city's employees let you know about values threats? How often does your staff record their thoughts about how decisions or events may impact core values? Can you answer with a pie chart?"

I could tell the risk management folks were having some trouble making the connection between risk management and values, but the mayor seemed to have an "a-ha! …

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