Why Values, Purpose, and Culture?

There’s been no shortage of books, TedTalks, and another content related to values, purpose, and culture in organizations. Simon Sinek’s Start with Why has been broadly embraced. Minister and author Rick Warren’s message of being “purpose-driven” has resonated far beyond churches. 

It is no surprise that leaders and managers have a strong interest in values, purpose, and culture. These elements, after all, are fundamental to the organizational growth and transformation. If we get values, purpose, and culture right; we know it leads to growth, profitability, and sustainability. 

Yet…values, purpose, and culture are much easier to talk about then they are to see actualized. An articulate leader can state their purpose for the organization; but how does become reality? The same goes for values and culture. Easy to talk about. Hard to do.

We wanted to learn more about organizational purpose, values, and culture so looked around and found clues right in front of us. Actually…all around us – we looked to ecosystems.

What Are Emergent Properties?

What do values, purpose, and culture have in common? Well, they are all “emergent” properties of an organization. An emergent property is something a collection or complex adaptive system has; but no individual member of that collection or system has. Issam Sinjab, a theoretical astrophysicist at Sussex University, provides a couple of good examples to help explain, one from chemistry and another from biology. 

  • The taste of saltiness is a property of salt. It is not, however, a property of sodium or chlorine, the two elements which make up salt. So, saltiness is an emergent property of salt. 
  • The heart is made of heart cells. On their own, heart cells don’t have the property of pumping blood. The whole heart is needed to do that. Thus, pumping is an emergent property of the heart.

 Purpose, values, and culture are emergent properties of an organization. They can’t be spoken into existence by any single person. They are only present in the whole, not in the parts. 

 How did FullSpectrum Originate?

Our exploration led us to the remarkable work of Dutch Psychiatrist Peter Robertson and the team at Human Insight. We’ve partnered with them to develop FullSpectrum powered by the ACT-Cube.

With a FullSpectum Analysis, you can evaluate three elements of your organization that are vital for survival. Just as the full spectrum of sound and light is required to see and hear the richness of the world around us, the full spectrum of these three key elements are vital to understanding how purpose, values, and culture become real in your organization. Understanding Attachment, Consistency, and Time, will allow you to visualize, predict, and optimize organizational purpose, values, and culture.

Attachment. This refers to an organization’s product-market fit. In a natural ecosystem there are both biotic and abiotic factors. Simply put, biotic factors are alive – flora, fauna, creatures, and the like. Abiotic factors are not not alive, things like – light, water, ocean currents. In organizational terms this translates to the extent we are “attached” to the living factors of our ecosystem (the customer) and the nonliving factors (our tools and technology).

Consistency. This is the extent to which the overall organization behaves consistently with its stated purpose, values, or culture. In other words, “walking the talk.” In an ecosystem, consistency is required for what’s called ecological succession and developmental plasticity. Both of these terms have to do with long-term viability and adaptability.

Time. Like every ecosystem, every organizations (and the people who make them up) have both histories and futures. What happens today is informed both by what we’ve learned from our past and what we see ahead in the future. In a sustainable natural ecosystem, the dual drives of instinct and exploration are in balance. Too much exploration comes with risk (i.e., becoming someone’s lunch), ), relying too much on past experiences also comes with a risk as well (i.e., not adapting and becoming extinct). Moderating between past and future is vital for organizational sustainability as well.

 What Organizations Can Benefit from a FullSpecrum Analysis?

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Similar sentiments, albeit likely not as memorable, have been made about purpose and values. With that in mind, organizations facing some sort of strategic transformation will benefit most from a FullSpectrum Analysis. The following are just some of the situations in which a FullSpectrum Analysis can be of significant value.

  • Digital transformation
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Change management initiatives
  • Strategy design and execution
  • Growth and downsizing

What Does a FullSpectrum Engagement Look Like?

A FullSpectrum engagement involves three stages: (1) Discovery & Design, (2) Assessment & Analysis, (3) Insights & Action. 

The Discovery & Design phase usually involves two 2-hour working sessions with the leadership team to understand the dynamics of the strategic transformation the organization is facing and in determining the scope of the FullSpectrum engagement (what units/departments will be involved, etc.). 

In the Assessment & Analysis phase, data is collected by having employees within the participating unit/departmental complete the online ACT-Cube assessment. We then analyze the data and prepare a set of customized materials to help prepare for the last phase. 

The Insights & Application phase includes a set of interactive workshops with the leadership, participating units/departments designed to communicate and discuss the insights gained and consider actions that will help better align purpose, values, and culture with the strategic transformation.   

How Can I Learn More? 

To learn more about a FullSpectrum Analysis for your organization and how it can help you animate purpose, values, and culture, connect with us. We would be happy to discuss.

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