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How to embed vision and values in your organisation

Vision is the destination of your culture journey

A safety vision is always going to be in danger of scorn derision and respect, particularly from the well poisoners, if it’s just a set of hollow promises written by a management team and posted around a business without any explanation.

On the other hand, if it’s created in collaboration with work teams it can be a genuine expression of a desired outcome.

Hand holding a compassYour safety vision should represent what everyone in the organisation would like to achieve. It should be something to aim for, something that will be truly meaningful when you eventually achieve it. At the same time it must be sensible, believable and whilst challenging it should be realistic.

If it is too far-fetched from where you are now, nobody will believe in it because they can’t imagine you ever getting there.

Having something to work towards gives us purpose. Most people will seek some kind of purpose and if it isn’t safety-related it will be something else – probably getting the job done at any cost. Of course if you achieve your safety vision you’ll almost certainly also achieve a whole load of other benefits, on top of getting the job done!

Values are what is important; what you stand for; your guiding principles

Values are a key element of culture. They represent our priorities and that will determine what we spend our time and effort on.

Once again, this must not be a management-led paper exercise in coming up with catchy words and phrases. The values must have genuine meaning for everyone. One way or another, either directly or through (true) representatives, everyone should be involved and have an opportunity to give their input.

Having identified a set of meaningful values, everyone in the business, particularly leaders, should be held to account over the extent to which they conduct themselves according to those values. If you aren’t prepared to live by them then they clearly aren’t your values.

Choice of language is important too. Remember that these are not just for the benefit of directors, shareholders or potential clients. They are there as guiding principles for everyone in the organisation at every level. As such they should reflect their way of thinking and speaking (up to a point!). They should ideally be written in the first person plural so that you could imagine anyone stating them, whether managing director or machine operator: “We look out for each other… We’re always looking for ways to improve.”

Communicate your vision and values

Having reached a collective agreement, they need to be widely communicated and explained. If the process up to this point has been inclusive this will be very easy, but go further, explain them to your contractors, visitors, customers and regulators. Make them highly visible: in reception, at the factory gates, on your website. Ensure they are covered in your inductions and run campaigns on each of them over several months.

Most importantly just talk about them and demonstrate them through your actions – this is after all our most effective form of communication. In time you should get to the point where they’re truly embedded, and whilst you might not expect everyone to recite them verbatim they should at least recognise them.

Let’s hear your values – it might inspire others to reflect on their vision and values. Post them in the comments below.

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