At Wisetail, we spent some time (well, actually, a lot of time) workshopping ours. It’s important to note that as simple as our three core values may seem, it took lots of time to whittle them down to simple, direct statements. Together, our team identified and prioritized core themes, questioned each other’s ideas — ensuring we got to the heart of what mattered and iterated based on lots of feedback. We cut out generic statements that didn’t resonate or weren’t likely to drive or inspire. The collection of values, or a manifesto, are the foundation of culture and they need to be unpacked with intention.
Creating our manifesto was so valuable we thought we would pass along our process.
Stay focused on the goal.
The process is about identifying what matters most to your company through behaviors like how your teams talk and act, how learning and growth are fostered and what criteria you use to measure success and failure. Each person brings his or her own set of values to the workplace. Sharing similar or agreed upon values at work will help clarify:
• Expected behavior and actions to each other and customers
• How decisions are made
• Beliefs and needs on an individual level
• Shared values across the organization
What you need.
• A facilitator to pose questions and encourage discussion
• Sticky notes – lots of them
• An open space to pose questions and post ideas
• Core value questions list
Core values questions.
Have the facilitator pose core value questions one-by-one to the team. Give everyone five minutes to write down every answer that comes to mind and put each answer on separate sticky notes. When the time is up, post the notes on the wall randomly. These notes form your working core values list.
The workshop works best if the question is visible so everyone can take their time processing the question. You can either display the questions on a monitor as you go, write them on a whiteboard, or post them around the room.
Ideally, you’ll want 20 to 25 ideas posted before moving on. If the ideas aren’t flowing, try inverting the question. Ask, “what is our company NOT?” or “how does our company do things differently vs. other similar companies?” Inverting the question often helps bring fresh ideas.
Here are a few questions to get you started. Remember, keep them simple:
• Why do you work here? (Answers will likely revolve around impact, people, wellness, and even as simple as “a paycheck”)
• What commitments do you make when you show up to work everyday?
• Looking back at the moments where you were most proud of the work you or your team did, why exactly do you feel that way? On the flip side, what makes you most frustrated or angry?
• When you think about other organizations or leaders you truly admire, what is it that makes you feel that way?
• What matters to our customers, clients, users, etc.?
Organize your list.
Once you’ve posed all the questions and posted the answers/ideas, you’ll most likely recognize common themes. Organize similar answers into groups — you’ll probably end up with five or so — and encourage open discussion and help arrange notes from the workshoppers as you go. This process is commonly referred to as affinity mapping or creating an affinity diagram. Affinity mapping helps you find patterns in a large set of data by identifying underlying relationships.
For example, if “culture” is on one note and “passionate people” on another, you may want to group these two ideas together. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when sorting your core value list:
• Make sure every card remains visible throughout the process. Step back and you may notice new relationships forming.
• If you have trouble placing an idea or note in a group, don’t get hung up. Place to the side, move on and come back to it later to see if these ideas have a place.
• Don’t discard any ideas even if they are repeated. Repetition signifies importance and shared thinking.
Now you’re ready to choose your core values from your organized list! Look at each of the groups that have formed — choose a keyword or concept that summarizes the entire group of cards. The keyword or concept from each group should represent a new core value.
To help define your core values, think of supporting statements – what you’re actively doing as an organization and strive to continue doing.
* = SUPPORTING STATEMENT
Look for key concepts that appear on multiple notes within a group. These supporting statements should use the terminology found on the notes as much as possible. After all, it will be easier to communicate your core values when the supporting statements are in your team’s own words.
Using insights from the workshop, meet with a group of volunteers to:
• Reach consensus on core values
• Develop supporting statements for each core value
• Share the manifesto with all teams for feedback and refinement
This process is intended to be inclusive — the group of volunteers should include all roles and levels within the organization.
It’s important to solicit feedback throughout the entire process, but is critical to give everyone the opportunity to review and ensure the team is onboard. Once you’ve identified core values and their supporting statements, ask:
• Does the whole manifesto resonate?
• Are the core values memorable?
• Is it written in our cultural vernacular?
• Are the supporting statements attainable yet ambitious?
• Overall, does the manifesto inspire and provide vision company wide?
We used our friends at Officevibe as a platform to ask targeted questions and crowdsource feedback. This gave all employees the opportunity to provide feedback anonymously.
The group adopts the manifesto by voting when the organization believes the value statements are complete.
If you want your investment of time in a manifesto workshop to make a difference in your organization, the leadership and individual follow-up is critical:
• Establish organizational goals that align with the manifesto
• Translate the values into expectations, priorities, and behaviors
• Hire and promote individuals whose outlook and actions are parallel with these values
• Meet regularly to talk about what your team is doing to follow the manifesto
• Take inventory of any data that can help measure your values (example: if one of your values is centered around• providing great customer service, is your NPS score above or below your target number?)
• Model personal work behaviors, decision making, and contribute in ways that reflect the values
Articulating culture and practicing values in the workplace is often the hardest step for organizations. The manifesto workshop and subsequent follow-through worked for us. In fact, our employee engagement survey data shows that our “Alignment” metric (representing how employees align themselves with the organization’s vision, mission, and values) has steadily increased since we established our manifesto. We hope that our process and success can give you some guidance to identify your core values and create a manifesto that matters.
Learning and Development