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Value driven company culture – Just a fling like agile?

I still face the question if basing a company culture on core values is worth it when I’m outside our office. Won’t it just end up with a couple of posters on the wall and something you just use when recruiting to attract talents?

The honest answer: It can turn out to be just posters on the wall. Changing a well adopted culture takes a lot of time and effort. Just by changing your company’s core values won’t add any value. You really need to dig into what it means for everyone at the company and work on it to make a change and things to happen. But If you are willing to put in the work, great things will come out of it. A company's core values are often just a couple of words and sentences which might at first seem like something that are easy to understand. And yes, it is, but these words are interpreted in as many ways as there are employees in your company. So after you have got your co-workers curious and excited about this new value driven company culture you need to spend your focus on calibrating the meaning of the core values. Discussing what they mean, why they are relevant for your company and discuss examples in the organization. Show examples of good and not so good cases and continue to calibrate its meanings. No one has the prefect definition but together you will find it, different opinions will lead to unity. And this calibration phase will never end because new people will start and will have new ways to view your core values. But if you have reached a level where you use your core values to discuss what decisions you should make you've come a long way.

In 2017, we arranged 21 Challenger Days, with employees participating in order to increase awareness of the self-driven employee and core-values to enhance capacity to implement. Our attitude and our behavior are decisive to how we will achieve our vision. Therefore, we have placed considerable focus on inspiring, developing and communicating our value-driven working approach. With full transparency regarding our sustainable governance model, we want to clarify how everyone’s input contributes to our vision and our goals. Consequently, we want all employees to understand how their specific duties contribute to the whole and why they specifically are important for SBAB’s success. During the Challenger Days, participants were able to work with different issues together, based on our values, they were able to reason their way to solutions. They had training in giving and receiving feedback, and discussed what being a self-driven employee entails.


Why?

But if we take a step back and look at the why. Why should we have core values that lays the foundation for our company culture? The way I see it is because it will give us a chance to work in the manner we want. We work actively to develop our value-driven working approach, with our self-driven employees and inclusive leadership at its core. A value-driven working approach involves always ensuring we work with our values in mind — using them as a basis to consistently practice, talk, discuss and give feedback. It is a matter of giving our employees the tools and courage they need to take initiatives, make their own decisions and implement and test new ideas. And we need employees that are value-driven to achieving our vision and our goals in a competitive market where the wider world, customer needs and customer behavior are changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Our value-driven working approach is about an inclusive leadership and self-driven employees, where everybody is making smart decisions in their daily work. The approach is built on clarity, transparency and trust, which promote and create determination, courage, tempo, fresh ideas, everyday innovation and continual learning. It involves always enabling everyone to take initiatives and make smart decisions.

The value-driven working approach places major demands on having bold leaders with a holistic perspective. By serving as role models, they build the trust and commitment required to help employees act in an independent and driven manner. Inclusive leadership is about participation, trust, responsibility and clarity as well as equality and diversity. The leader serves as a role model, establishes targets and frameworks, is clear about expectations and demonstrates trust by refraining from micromanaging, setting rules or delegating solutions.

This enables us to increase the pace and enhance decisiveness and daily innovation, thanks to all our employees making smart decisions in their daily work. By serving as role models, our leaders can build the trust and commitment required to help employees act in an independent and driven manner.

We strive to work using the agile work approach to increase tempo, improve efficiency and to create a more developing work environment. We operate in a changing world that requires us to quickly and flexibly adapt ourselves to new preconditions. A major change resulting from fully transitioning to an agile working approach is to optimize the operations for value flows rather than resources. In simplified terms, this entails that the time from starting a certain activity until it is completed is more important than planning how specific resources are to work with a certain thing at a specific point in time. Aided by agile working principles, we want to further develop our value-driven working approach.

Simply put, our values are the foundation of who we are and how we act, the glue of our entire company. Our values are what we can lean on when we are unsure how to do things. At SBAB, we want all employees to keep our values in mind in their daily work.


Challenges

What are the biggest challenges? A value-drive organization gives you freedom, goals and frames to act within. With freedom comes great responsibility and opportunities. In order to cope with this freedom, you need to know where the company are heading, what’s happening around you and how your choices affect your coworkers to be able to make smart decisions. And sometimes your own inspiration and enthusiasm take you out on detours without you reflecting on it. The challenge in being a challenger is to work goal oriented and having a game plan so you keep delivering relevant results and continuously evaluate if you are spending your time right. We got a mantra that goes Build, Measure, Learn. Deliver small parts, evaluate if it works the way you expect it to and then learn from it. If you after the iteration still believe it’s the right thing, then continue doing it. And always spread information about successes and failures so people around you can learn.

To summarize, a value-driven company culture is not a fling. It's a necessity to be able to cope with the increasing pace we work at today. And it is challenging, rewarding and a lot of fun.

I’ll stop here but I could rant on forever about value-driven company cultures when it’s one subject I hold dear. Contact me if you feel like continue discussing this topic.

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  • Agneta Albinsson
  • Alexander Bennetoft
  • Alexander Nilsson
  • Anders Alvemur
  • Anders Jildén
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