You are here


An organization's values, along with its reason for being, make up its ideology. There is no business case, per se, for values. Values are the beliefs of the organization members in which they have an emotional investment. They are adopted by the organization because they believe them to be right, good, and honorable. They are 'discovered', not created.

Values, identity, focus, and liberation --
Values are the must fundamental element of a business. Once established, they are the last element ever considered for change, as changing them would change the identity of the organization, and impact all the other elements and their interrelationships in the business model. Changing lines of business is preferred over changing values. Values become the boundaries of an otherwise infinite world. In the highly effective business, values become the thing that binds people together, not hierarchy and controls. Values are the most fundamental of rules that liberate.

Values, behavior, and decision making --
Values are the most powerful influence in decision making. Decisions and leader's behavior reflect the true values of the organization. Core values are animated in the daily behavior of the business leaders. The leader's daily behavior gives life to and reveals the true values of the leaders. Courage and foresight are needed to explicitly define and live by these values. Values are the touchstone that the business turns to when making all decisions, big or small. This means that the business lives and dies by its values. Values strongly adhered to can make easy decisions, that otherwise seem difficult, easy. This can keep a business on a solid foundation, with a clear focus, preventing it from chasing temping opportunities outside of its values. Values are thus the most fundamental element in guiding the business and the most significant element of the strategic focus of the business. It is this strategic focus that key to a business to gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage.

Values, morality, and purpose --
See purpose, 'Purpose as a moral idea'.

Stacey's view of values as part of ideology --

Norms and values make up ideology which governs and guides behavior. (Stacey, 2007, pp 345 - 347).

First, consider how values differ from norms and then how inseparable they are, despite the differences. Joas (2000) uses the words 'values' and 'ideals' interchangeably and identifies their characteristics as:

  • evaluative in that they provide general and durable criteria for judging desires, norms and actions;
  • attractive and compelling in a voluntary, committed sense. They motivate action and open up opportunities for action. Values attract us, giving life meaning and purpose, and so are not experienced as restrictive. They are the highest expression of our free will, presenting a paradox of compulsion and voluntary commitment at the same time;
  • intimately connected with ethics in that they provide criteria for judging what is the good in action, differentiating between good and bad desires, good and bad norms.

Values are essentially concerned with what it is good to desire. When we reject a perfectly realizable desire because we believe it is unacceptable then we are distinguishing between higher and lower virtues or vices, profound and superficial feelings, noble and base desires. Such evaluations indicate a life we hold to be of higher value, a view of the kind of person we want to be.

Source of values --
Joas drew on Dewey (1934), a friend and colleague of Mead, to argue that values, as inspiring, attractively compelling motivations to act towards the good, are continually arising in social interaction as inescapable aspects of self formation. Values are continually arising in our ongoing negotiation with each other and ourselves, in our going on together. It follows that values are contingent upon the particular action situations in which we find ourselves. Although values have general and durable qualities, their motivational impact on action must be negotiated afresh, must be particularized, in each action situation. Dewey combines such an intersubjective understanding of self and value formation with experiences of self transcendence. The communicative interaction in which self is formed is more than a means to coordinating action; it opens human beings up to each other, making possible the experience in which values and commitments to them arise. Share experiences overcome self-centeredness producing altruism, which is a radical readiness to be shaken by the other in order to realize oneself in and through others. This opening, or transcending, of the self is the process in which genuine values arise.

Values and idealization --
Dewey also brings the role of imagination and creativity into the genesis d values and value commitments. Imagination idealizes contingent possibilities an creates an imaginary relation to a holistic self. While imaginary, this relation is n an illusion or a fantasy. Idealisation allows us to imagine a wholeness that do not exist and never will but seems real because we have experienced it so intense This is not a solitary but a social process. The will does not bring about the imagined wholeness; rather, the will is possessed by it. The voluntary compulsion of the experience of value and value commitment feels to come from outside of ourselves, to be not of our own positing but of something higher than us.

Values are not necessarily ""good"" --
The description of values and value commitments in the last section may easily be taken as meaning that values are unequivocally good. However, as indicated the discussion above, this is not so. The notions of cult values, the power dynamic of inclusion and exclusion they involve, and the way in which groups of people may get caught up in destructive unconscious processes of self loss, focus our attention on the darker aspects of values/ideals and value commitments. These processes point to the particular problems that arise from the tendencies to idealize imagined whole and submerge oneself in imagined participation in them.

Values paradoxical nature --
Notice the paradoxical nature of the theory of values so far outlined. Values arise in processes of self formation and self transcendence at the same time. Values arise in critical reflection and in experience beyond conscious deliberation at the same time. Values arise in intense actual experience of interaction and in idealizing acts of imagination at the same time. Values may be good or bad or both, depending upon who is doing the judging.

Values emergence --
Values do not arise either from conscious intentions or through justification and discussion, although such intention, justification and discussion may be applied later. Genuinely experienced value commitments cannot be produced rationally and authentic values cannot be disseminated through indoctrination. A purpose in life cannot be prescribed. Instead, the subjective experience of values arises in specific action contexts and types of intense experience. Values and value commitments arise in the process of self formation through processes of idealizing key intense experiences and through the imaginative construction of a whole self to yield general and durable motivations for action directed toward what is judged as the good. These generalized idealizations must always be particularized in specific action situations as people negotiate their going on together if they are to avoid a cult.

Values cannot be prescribed or deliberately chosen by anyone because they emerge, and continue to be iterated, in intense interactive experiences involving self formation and self transcendence. To claim that someone could choose values for others would be to claim that this someone could form the identity, or self, of others and form the self transcendence of others.

Values prescriptions are highly suspect --
If one takes the above view of what values are and how they arise then the prescriptions of the dominant discourse that require leaders to form an organization's values become highly questionable. Such approaches could not create authentic experiences of value and value commitment involving a mature capacity to functionalize them in contingent situations. All they could do, when effective as propaganda, would be to create the dangerous conformity of a fundamentalist cult. Alternatively, leadership activities claiming to be formulating values may only amount to the prescription of norms as obligatory restrictions rather than the voluntary compulsions of values. Even these norms would have to be functionalized in contingent situations unless people felt so threatened and afraid that they could do not other than rigidly comply in what would then be a fascist power structure. The less harmful consequence of attempts to instill values is the cynicism usually provoked by such attempts. The way one thinks about values and norms thus has profound consequences for what one does in organizations.

See how norms and values together constitute ideology.