Values are the last fallback

Transforming companies through values, culture and corporate DNA (Part 1)

Values. In technology companies they are things that are assigned to variables. In fact they are the last fallback to keep the company on the right track when all other mechanisms have failed. Knowing that the company has the right values helps me, the quality manager, sleep better at night.

Values are at the focus on this first part of my three part blog post series on transforming companies. The series is a practical account of Link Motion’s ongoing journey towards being the company that develops safety and security-critical vehicle computers.

Value, according to Wikipedia, is something that determines the best actions to take or the best way to live [1]. In other words, a value has a polarity, which is always positive, and a direction, which is always for the better.

An interesting philosophical discussion could be about the existence of negative values, which would reveal an important omission in the definition of value: the point of view. When talking about values, we should always understand whether they are an individual’s values or, for example, an organization’s values.

“An organisational value is not an actual value, if you cannot attribute the staff’s words and actions back to it every single day.”

Individual values emerge and evolve over time through interaction with the surrounding world. Initial values are mostly absorbed from one’s family and culture, and are never entirely overwritten. Organizational values emerge from the fusion of individual values. They tend to emphasize the values of the most influential individuals and reflect the norms of the organisation.

To find out our present organisational values, we recently asked our staff to write three values that they find most important within Link Motion. There was cohesion among the answers and we were able to derive the following four organisational values:

  • Freedom. Having the freedom to choose the way, place and time to work.
  • Team Work. Having an atmosphere where everyone is open, sharing, and willing to help each other.
  • Honesty. Being honest and transparent both internally and externally.
  • Expertise. Excelling at doing the things we do, and constantly teaching ourselves to do those things better.

Values, according to Matti Alahuhta, manifest in the words and actions of people [2]. In other words, an organisational value is not an actual value, if you cannot attribute the staff’s words and actions back to it every single day.

How do I know that freedom is an actual value at Link Motion? I open Slack and find that people from all over the world slacking (pun intended) around the clock. I spot somebody in the middle of the day saying that they are taking their child to the dentist. I see managers fitting meetings to everyone’s schedules. I don’t see anyone complaining about random absences.

“Values are stronger than the process. Values are the last fallback. Values define what happens when the process fails.”

So why do I, the quality manager, care about values? It’s all about the process and standards to me, right? No.

I care because values are stronger than the process. Values are the last fallback. Values define what happens when the process fails. Quality is about the end result for the customer, not about the process and the standards, which are just means to an end.

Strong values can support a value-driven process, which is beneficial to the organisation. Value-driven processes reduce detail on purpose and encourage the engagement of people. Such an approach would, in fact, be in line with the principles and basics of latest quality management standards, such as the ISO 9001 [3].

Through interactions between people, values take part in forming the organizational culture. Culture drives business – out to the highway, or to a dead end. In the next post of the series I will focus on culture and its role in transforming companies.

References

[1] Value (ethics). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_(ethics). Read 2018-07-03.

[2] Alahuhta, Matti. Leadership – clear direction and the strength of people. (Johtajuus – kirkas suunta ja ihmisten voima.) 2016. Docendo.

[3] ISO 9001:2015, sub-chapters 0.2 and 4.1.

 

Juha leverages his wide expertise in information technology, program management and business development to grow companies. During the past ten years he has worked with both embedded and enterprise systems in several positions and industries, including medical and online gambling to name a few. At Link Motion, Juha gets the possibility combine his embedded systems and cloud knowledge in developing connected cars. He is also responsible for the quality and compliance of Link Motion’s products. In addition to various certifications, Juha holds an M.Sc. in Engineering, BBA in Management and an honorary membership in the grumpy old men’s club.