HRINZ Conference 2005 Working Through Values Working Through Values  

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Day One – Wednesday 14 September


F10 Corporate Values

Wayne Urquhart    

Making Values Work: Onwards from Theory to Execution

Wayne Urquhart, Acumen Consulting

The quest to embed organisational values is commendable and necessary, but the challenge merely begins with their articulation.

In some organisations, employees can dutifully regurgitate values by rote, like children rehearsing multiplication tables, but under closer scrutiny, how many truly embrace and incorporate them into their daily activities? Not many.

This is not through a lack of resource or intent; it is simply a communication blockage between the desired outcomes of the organisation and what the people hear.

Values, once expressed by the business, have to be translated into discretionary behaviours and understandable language, across each level within your organisation. Then, and only then, can HR practitioners identify, assess, develop and reward the desired values and ultimately transform the behavioural parameters of the business.

The responsibility to communicate and develop these behaviours lies with people in leadership positions, at every corner of your business. Under closer scrutiny, leaders have to stand up and develop themselves; and move on from merely being managers of process.

Business history tells us that many organisational and HR initiatives fail badly, or at best, fail to deliver the level of change or outcome required. Often we find a big disconnect between what organisation's are trying to achieve, no matter how noble or innovative, and what eventuates.

This is not because organisations don't invest time, energy and money in sculpting the desired outcomes, expressing them in value statements or strategic plans for an upcoming period, or because the people out in the rank and file of a business want to be obstructive or destructive. Research shows that failure is inevitable simply because most people don't actually and exactly understand how they are expected to adjust their daily activities or discretionary behaviours in order to achieve the desired goals..

With respect to the executives amongst us, most individuals out there do not lay awake each night, gazing at the ceiling, wondering and pondering the organisational values or strategic goals. Every day, they come to work, merely seeking the security of knowing that if they deliver specific outcomes, both operational and behavioural, that they will continue to be employed and rewarded. Mostly, people only want to know what their little corner of the world looks like, described as simply and succinctly as possible.

In her recent book "Walking the Talk" (Random House, 2005), Carolyn Taylor, points out that from a personal perspective 'everyone's behaviours reflect their values.' It is exactly the same inside organisations. Without question, the behavioural framework of an organisation must reflect and communicate precisely the values sought.

Many argue that a lot of value statements within businesses look very similar, or use parallel language. (Lombardo & Eichinger, The Leadership Machine, 2004.) They set out six common value statement themes within organisations, and point out that with all these similarities, only operational excellence might set one business apart from another.

So, as we research a little deeper, we reaffirm what is known in that any HR project survives on its communication strategy. If people are given the right information at the right time in the right manner, then milestones are reached and outcomes achieved. There are countless projects which have collapsed or underachieved, simply through a chronic lack of communication.

Stopping to reflect, having established a set of values for your business, the real challenge is to identify the specific behaviours which will translate those value statements into everyday activities; and this task must be carried out from both a research based perspective as well as by consensus.

Thinking deeper, even if we have established a behavioural framework which decodes our organisational values, the greatest hurdle is to understand how to actually develop the behaviours, layer by layer, job by job.

The answer to that quandary lies with the capability of your people in leadership positions. All leaders must have the courage to make the tough calls, both for themselves and their people, to understand that a core responsibility of leadership is to develop their subordinates, and be able to embed the values of the business by developing the desired behaviours. We have plenty of quality managers out there, but very few quality leaders.

So to summarise;

  1. The quest to establish organisational values is commendable and necessary, but the challenge only starts with their announcement
  2. Often, initiatives of this type are doomed, not through lack of resource or intent, but because of a major communication disconnect
  3. Values, once articulated, have to be communicated into everyday discretionary behaviours and language, across each level within the organisation
  4. The responsibility to communicate and develop the behaviours lies with people in leadership positions, at every corner of your business
  5. Leaders have to stand up and develop themselves; move on from merely being managers.

Wayne Urquhart is a Principal at Acumen Consulting, an Auckland based practice which operates alongside the Melbourne based DHR Group throughout Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.
Acumen work alongside global and Australasian businesses, effecting culture transformation and leadership improvement at organisational, business unit, team and individual leader levels. Wayne provides strategy facilitation, development feedback, executive coaching and project management services.

Currently, Wayne provides support to executives and management teams, assisting them to add rigour in their definition of strategic pathways, while delivering values based behavioural frameworks to achieve those business goals. He consults in HR processes surrounding talent management, strategy formulation, business leadership, recruitment as well as lifting the capability sales marketing operations.

He is a qualified Certifier for The Leadership Architect suite of products, also facilitating leadership courses at Auckland University.
Wayne has over twenty years commercial experience, having held senior management as well as sales leadership positions in the financial services industry. He worked in Executive Recruitment and on many HR consulting projects. Wayne originally served as with the NZ Police for nine years.

Wayne holds an MBA (Management by Project & Strategic Marketing). Earlier, he gained diploma level qualifications from the financial services industry.

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