How corporate values can help improve strategy

February 7, 2023
Corporate values and strategy are inextricably linked: your strategy is your plan of action for the future; your values are the way you want to do things.

It’s hard to see how you can have one without the other, even if you, as an organisation, haven’t formulated a set of values as yet. Many organisations exist with an implicit set of values, but they are a lot more effective and strategic when they are explicit.

Corporate values as a strategic driver

Without any meaningful corporate values at all, your organisation is essentially rudderless. You might know where you want to get, but you don’t have the necessary framework to help everyone drive the strategy forward in a targeted way. Because values don’t just drive strategy - they also help you make sense of your strategy. And they help you communicate your strategy effectively to your employees, customers and business partners.

Let’s take an example. Say your organisational strategy is to create new, exciting products, the first of which will be launched in a year’s time. Do you have the right culture to support that? The right processes and policies? If one of your values were innovation, you would have already set a culture of innovation. Your employees would know it is one of your core company values. Having it as a value that is truly embedded in the organisation makes it much easier to achieve innovation as a strategy.

Values provide permission to act

When employees know that innovation is encouraged in your organisation and they believe in it as a core corporate value, they are much more likely to innovate because you have given them explicit permission and guidance to do so.

Remember that innovation can happen in all sorts of ways. There are the big product or service innovations that everyone talks about – we all want those, of course. But innovation can also happen on a smaller, less grand scale – improvements to processes or procedures, innovations that make everything run more smoothly and efficiently, for instance.

When you are explicit about the values you want to see in your organisation, you are also laying out the strategic focus, loud and clear. Your own strategic thinking and planning will be very focused and so will the thinking and planning of those around you.

Reflect on your priorities

Looking at and talking through strategy from a corporate value lens enables you and everyone else to step back from day-to-day concerns and reflect on what is important to you as a business and why. It’s a really effective way to sharpen up thinking so that you always keep to your core, most important aims.

You know it’s working when you are sitting in a strategy meeting and people make comments such as: “How does this align with value X?” or “It’s a really good idea, but I think it conflicts with value Y, what shall we do about that?”

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