back to media

"Shaken not Stirred"

- a case study

 

In 2002 we were asked by a major client to help them 'do something' with their core values.

 

The business had grown considerably in the past five years but the changes had been incremental and re-active. Their new five year plan made demands on the business that required a pro-active stance and they felt that it was time to re-visit their core values. The values had been defined and ratified eighteen months earlier. They had been communicated to the workforce in a variety of media including laminated 'credit type' cards.

 

The directors were concerned that many in the workforce would not be able to say what was on the card, let alone act in line with the values espoused.

 

We began with a workshop for the senior team. We decided to take a creative approach and introduced the 'Shaken not Stirred' metaphor:

 

Imaging if you went to see a James Bond film. You pay your money and as the ticket clerk hands you your ticket he slips you a laminated card and says:

 

"These are the core values of this film. Please memorise them and you will be tested later."

 

Of course not. That would be ridiculous. And yet the Bond films (like all films) do express core values.

 

When we ask people to describe the Bond values they usually struggle to articulate them for a while. They will usually say things like:

 

"He's cool."

"He uses lots of gadgets."

"He always gets the girl."

 

and when asked if they would expect him to betray a fellow agent they answer;

 

"Of course not."

 

So we could say that loyalty is one of the core values. And we all know it. But we know it in a strange 'of course' sort of way. It's as if these core values are embedded in our subconscious and trying to articulate them requires us to drag them into the conscious part of our brain. And this takes effort.

 

The point here is that values, if they are to be of any relevance, must be 'known' in our subconscious. There needs to be an 'of course' type of understanding - we just do certain things 'round here, and it is unthinkable that we would do certain other things.

 

This organisational culture exists, by default, in every business. The problem occurs when the existing culture is not conducive to the business aims for the future. Then the senior team have the job of creating a new culture to replace the existing one.

 

Now film makers are experts at creating this type of deep rooted understanding of the values and culture of their films. And we in business can learn a great deal from the way they go about it.

 

Notice first that they don't tell us the values. We never hear James Bond say:

 

"I will never betray my fellow agents because that would be disloyal and loyalty is one of my core values."

 

And I can assure you that if ever a screen writer tried to put such words into his mouth the script editor would delete it without ceremony.

 

So the fact that your staff cannot recite the core values is not really the issue. In fact, in some instances we advise against publishing them since they can expose you to cynicism.

 

By examining in detail the creative process that goes into the making of any film the senior team were able to come up with a plan of action to make the necessary changes.

 

We then carried out several workshop with the members of the workforce  taking vertical sections of staff.

 

By continuing with the "Shaken not Stirred" theme were able to use a common language that all staff members could relate to. They really made it their own and they drew out many analogies in addition to what we had originally intended.

 

For example they engaged in a discussion about whether the core values should exist essentially as a marketing tool in order to attract new business or should they be inward looking and describe 'what we are' for the benefit of the staff and contractors?

 

As part of this discussion one member of staff raised an interesting point:

 

"Would you go to see a Bond film if you hadn't seen the icons in the trailer and posters?"

 

To which another replied:

 

"Yes but if you went and it didn't deliver on what you had been sold you would be royally p****d off."

 

As a result of these workshops the staff came up with over 300 ideas of their own to work towards making the core values really live within the organisation.

 

These were fed back to the senior team for further discussion and action.

 

 

2004    Oberon Consultants