Why? It's an inside job.

Lisa Frank

Mar 10, 2022

When a task force, team, department, business, or entity forms, they may begin by developing a strategic plan that includes mission, vision, and values statements. The mission states who they are and what they do; the vision paints a picture of what is to be achieved; and the values identify the "why," i.e., the purpose and driving force, what's most important.

I'd like to argue that values should be the starting point as they provide the motivation for your vision, i.e., what you wish to achieve, and the mission, i.e., who you are and how you realize your vision. When you start with values, you begin from the inside and build outward. You are better able to go the distance. Think of values as providing steady fuel for marathon runners versus incentives providing repeated rapid fire sparks that fuel sprinters who may or may not cross the finish line. Why bother exerting oneself if there is no carrot dangling to tease out the effort? Values become the sturdy foundation on which everything else is built. In a way, they serve as the compass for how you execute your mission. When all three, i.e., values, mission, vision, are aligned, so will the ensuing actions and decisions.

Values statements don't only belong in an entity's strategic plan. Knowing your "why" applies to personal and professional values as well as to the day-to-day functions of your organization. Each of us holds personal values and they remain with us when we begin our work day. We don't leave them at the door. An important exercise is to determine our personal values and list them beside those of the organization. Which values harmonize? Which conflict? If your most important personal value is family and being present to read to your children in the evening, yet the company you work for values staff working together on site until 11 PM each night, how will you resolve any conflicts to honor both your personal and professional values?

Values also play an essential role in the operations of your organization. When employees don't understand the value, the why, behind what they are learning or doing, they are reliant on and restricted to performing tasks rather than taking responsibility for projects. It's only when they understand the why behind the laws, forms, and functions that they can work independently, using professional judgment and creativity.

A couple of nights ago, I watched (again) the movie "Hidden Figures." In the movie, the protagonist is asked to "look beyond the numbers." I believe those that truly excel in their profession are those that look beyond the numbers, tools, tasks, skills, or mechanics. Certainly, those at the top of their profession proceed with integrity, obeying laws, regulations, rules; however, like great artists who understands their tools, but do not allow themselves to be limited by them, professionals, too, can see tools for what they are and transcend them for a greater purpose, whether that purpose is figuring out how to avoid the consequence of a late bid or exploring the Universe.

What are you doing to honor your values and transcend your tools?