Not all values are created equal. There is a time and a place for everything. Most important is that the values are a reflection and an extension of the company’s vision and mission. The above examples show the variation that can be present in values. The examples also show many common elements are typical in most US corporations striving to grow and improve themselves through innovation and sustained protected profits.

Values in a startup organizations are justifiably some different from those in large established corporations. Successful entrepreneurial behavior requires action and trust, while successful corporate behavior implies responsibility and alignment with controls. Entrepreneurial speed demands agility, experimentation, adaptation, and rapid response in order to be first to market. Corporate initiatives involve analysis, review, and willingness sacrifice speed for thoroughness. Urgency often characterizes entrepreneurs. Collaboration or teamwork often characterizes corporations.

One of the best ways to organize one’s thinking of values was explored by Dr. Brian Hall in nearly 1970s. Later when he was at Santa Clara University in California he validated his work. By the late 1990s he developed his “values technology” by organizing over a hundred different values onto a matrix that split out values related to achieving goals and those related to means or actions. A scaling of the values related to an individual’s or an organization’s maturity.

There were four high level phases of maturity an organization might fall into. The first phase is shown in the “Values Stage Map” figure as “surviving”. The second phase related to belonging. The third phase is self-initiating and the fourth phase is interdependence.

Values Stage Map

Useful for individuals and organizations was to take a questionnaire that gave insight into the values the person or an organization possessed. Software would highlight on the values matrix those that had the most meaning.

The reason the values look different for various organizations is that organizations appropriately operate at different levels of maturity. Organizations like United States Army operate at the surviving level and are authoritarian in their approach. To do otherwise would be inappropriate in war situations. Other organizations are more paternalistic, so one finds often than in communication values areas you move up to managing and facilitating. Corporate R&D groups tend to be more collaborative, possessing values at the servant to visionary levels. As mentioned above values across for small startups are different from large corporations.

This matrix provides a way to explain differences in values and see which are most appropriate to adopt for a specific organization. Experiments have shown that it is important for R&D organizations to adopt values that are in the middle of the matrix. Too low, and creativity is stifled or at least not supported by the values. You can also set them to high. In this case they are too lofty and not appropriate to delivering bottom-line results to a corporation. This table also allows for industry-specific differences to show up. Computer games, telecommunications, hospitals, airlines, and electric utilities all would adopt appropriately different values even though at the level of going from authoritarian through to visionary they might end up in the in the middle spot.

If the foregoing seems to complex, an alternative is shown in the “Simplified Listing of Values“ figure. Instead of hundreds to choose from, this is a simple list of 25 and as such it requires no software to implement. It’s a matter of people force-ranking them from one to 25 and then picking the top few to live by. Having a management team or small groups within organizations discuss choices often times brings quick alignment on key values that the organization should adopt and live by.