I've got a small, folded card in front of me, easily small enough to fit into a pocket. I'd have to guess how old it is, but probably it's at least ten years old. In its time, copies were distributed to all Council staff and poster-size versions were displayed in most if not all Council buildings. On the front page it says " This sets out the vision, mission, objectives and values the Council of the City of Manchester will bring to its roles of representation, community leadership and service delivery ". The contents were important and some of the content still is. Clearly, any organisation that doesn't know where it's going and what the key staging posts are along the way isn't going to get very far at all, other than by accident. If the card was being re-written today much would change, partly because of the progress we have made in the intervening years, partly because of the changed circumstances we now operate in. One thing that wouldn't change, except in the way that they are presented, are the values.
The values set out on the card are pride in our city, community focussed, people focussed, responsive and accountable, valuing our employees. They didn't arrive by accident. There is a lot of evidence that the best performing organisations whether in the public or private sector have clear and strong values and use those values to drive the organisation. When a dozen or so years ago Manchester City Council started to explore the values operating within the Council we found we were absolutely awash with values. Unfortunately, far from driving the organisation, many of these values were inconsistent and indeed in some cases mutually contradictory, and the absence of a clear set of corporate values was holding us back.
We began urgently to develop a set of corporate values but these weren't simply imposed from the top. Nor, notwithstanding the urgency, were they rushed. For over a year a 'diagonal-slice' working party (Executive and non-Executive Councillors and officers from different departments and at different levels across the Council - Chief Officers through to relatively junior officers) beavered away supported by volunteer value champions to eventually come up with something that was clear, strong and could drive the sort of Council we wanted to be.
Vision, mission, and objectives change. One of the points about values is that they don't. They give constancy and consistency in an ever changing world. But we don't use those cards anymore and we don't describe the values in the same way anymore. We need to keep the values fresh and alive, and to do that, a couple of years ago we refreshed them as Pride, People, Place. But, how ever they are presented, they are worthless unless they impact on what we do and how we do it. More on that next time.