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By Alan Patching   Printer Friendly Version

Remember when a 'guru' speaker was the essential platform highlight at every conference? This person would present with consummate skill and persuasive passion. S/he would then retire to the back of the room to speak with delegates for a few minutes (perhaps more than a few minutes if book sales and autographs were in demand) and then head off to the next conference.

Things have changed. Organizations now want to know the person behind the stage image. They want the presenter's views on the issues of everyday corporate life. They want to know how their problems compare with those of the corporate world at large. Managers inevitably spend lunch reaching out for information on the 'V' words just as surely as they reach for the salt and pepper shakers.

Vision and Values ... the 'V' words. These concepts will forever remain as essential as continuing innovation to corporate success. These concepts recognize that a corporation is nothing more than the people it employs. These concepts, sadly, remain largely misunderstood in even the highest profile and best resource organizations.

Vision is how the corporation sees its future. The picture is often well outside of what many in the corporation believe could possibly be achieved. Nonetheless, management tries to impress its vision indelibly into the hearts and minds of the workers because hey, it's the nineties, and every decent organization has a corporate vision. Everybody knows that!

Meanwhile, the people who make up the organization often continue to lead lives of quiet
corporate desperation.

Whenever I ask a conference audience to write down what they would want in a world of limitless abundance, the answers often can be summarized as a desire for reasonable health and wealth, great relationships and a happy life. Never have I had somebody include in their list, "I want to be part of achievement of our corporate vision." Why? Because most people are sane, that's why.

When people are answering this question, they are getting in touch with what Dr. Carl Pribram, former head of neuro-psychology at Stanford University, calls their Images of Achievement. In this concept lies the secret of achievement of corporate vision. Let's examine why.

It is not reasonable to assume that, if I could demonstrate to our conference audience that I could deliver the items they scheduled without unreasonable effort on their part, they would work with me to deliver the goods? If this is the case, I believe it must be possible to use this principle in the achievement of our corporate vision.

Firstly, let's digress for a look at the other 'V', values. People in western society clearly have a healthy value for money. Without it, there is little chance of urban survival with any sort of quality of life.

Put those same people in a situation where their lives are at risk and the only way they can save themselves is by giving up all that they own, and there simply would be no doubt about the response. The material possessions would quickly take a position well subordinate to their personal safety and survival.

However, if these people's loved ones were in danger, they will more than likely put their own safety on the line to save those loved ones. A personal values hierarchy placing money, self, loved ones and spiritual matters in ascending order at the top of the list is common in our society.

So what is the point of a corporate values statement declaring that the customer is number one?

The fact is that the higher order of values of the people who make up the organization will usually lead people to put their own spirituality, family and self above the corporate source of income, the customer, when the chips are down.

I believe that management will benefit from taking the time to find out just what are the Values and the Images of Achievement of the people who work with them. It is surprising just how often management can deliver what is wanted ... flexible working hours, or more responsibility, or accountability, or input into decisions, or simply to be listened to and given respect. A corporate values statement evolving from an honest appraisal of the needs of the human capital of an organization will usually have those people positioned above the customer, and the customer usually fully understands why.

Now, back to vision. When an organization realizes that its values can never be anything other than the collective values of its human capital, and proudly pronounces and lives by this fact, people can begin to realize their Images of Achievement within the organization. In return, they give loyalty, and the vision of the company is something that is understood and valued by everyone and not just senior management. When that happens, even the sky cannot be considered the limit.

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