How To Figure Out Your Organization’s Values



“Profitability. Growth. Quality. Exceeding customer expectations. These are not examples of values. These are examples of corporate strategies being sold to you as values.” — Stan Slap

Organizational values guide your organization’s thinking and actions.  You can think of your organizational values in terms of dimensions: pro-social, market, financial, achievement, and artistic.

The values expressed are your corporate culture.

When it comes to culture and values, actions speak louder than words.

To figure out your organizational values, see what people spend their time on and what they talk about.

In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes about organizational values.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Define what matters.  I think the reason the values are so important for an organization is because it’s really about defining what matters and where people will spend time and energy.
  • Actions are louder than words. I’ve seen first hand when an organization states one set of values, but operated under another. I don’t think it’s on purpose. I think it happens when people write their values down without really first observing .
  • Use dimensions to frame and understand the values.   Consider the following dimensions: pro-social, market, financial, achievement, and artistic.

I find the dimensions particularly helpful as a way to frame out values in core areas that matter.

What are Organizational Values?

Grady writes the following on organizational values:

  • Organizational values are abstract ideas that guide organizational thinking and actions.
  • Organization values represent the foundation on which the company is formed.
  • Defining an organization’s unique values is the first and most critical step in its formation and development
  • While difference in opinion and skills may be beneficial to the success of an organization, a unity of purpose must be maintained.
  • In order for the institution to be successful, the values on which the company is built must be appropriate for the time, place, and environment in which the organization will operate.
  • A company’s organizational values let others know what it is, why it has been created, and how it is different from other companies.

How Do You Find Organizational Values?

Grady writes the following point on finding the values:

  • In order to understand and identify the values of an organization and to gauge their influence on the company, managers must carefully examine how that organization operates.
  • While it may be helpful to listen to people describe what they believe the values of the organization are, it is far better to observe those people in their day-to-day activities.
  • Note how employees spend their time, how they communicate within the organization and how they go about their daily job responsibilities and tasks.
  • Although values are often difficult to define, they are usually revealed by employees’ actions and thinking, how they set their priorities, and how they allocate their time and energy. An employee’s actions are more revealing than their words.

Dimensions to Understand Values

Grady writes the following dimensions help to understand organizational values and how those values drive an organization:

  • Pro-social dimension. Not-for-profit theatres have a responsibility
    to provide community access to their performances, remove economic and cultural
    barriers to attendance, and educate audiences in theatre arts.
  • Market dimension. Theatres struggle between creating art of art’s
    sake and meeting customer needs and expectations. A purely
    market-orientated philosophy is typically the mark of a commercial theatre, with its complete reliance on ticket sales for revenues, but all theater managers recognize the realities of the marketplace.
  • Financial dimension. Although all theatres must content with the
    reality of financial demands while pursuing creativity and artistic excellence,
    fiscal stability is a particularly high priority for some theatres.
  • Achievement dimension. Public recognition and acclaim can affirm
    an organization’s creative activity, and some theatres particularly strive for
    external recognition.
  • Artistic dimension. For many theatres, the top priority is
    internally focused creativity, innovation, and artistic dependence.

If you know your organization’s values, you’ll better understand how the system works and why things happen the way they do.

You’ll also know when you’re a fit or when you are not.

And you’ll know why others are a fit, or why they are not.

Actions reveal the truth of what’s valued.

You Might Also Like

How Crusades and Causes are Better Than Visions and Missions
Measure Success Against the Vision and the Mission
Corporate Culture: Actions Speak Louder than Words


  1. Thanks for introducing me to this book. It provides a tremendous guide in understanding the relationships of mission, vision and values.

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