Organizational Culture and Values

HSOs have mission and vision statements framed within the context of stated organizational values. The values identified reflect the culture of the organization; this implies that the organization's culture has been discovered. All organizations have a culture—the shared values that make each HSO unique. Rather than having discovered the culture and organized these discoveries into a mission statement, however, it is more typical that senior management developed a statement of values that they hold themselves or that they think should be the HSO's. The resulting organizational values statement may or may not reflect the culture of the HSO. Culture (and values) can be affected over time, but it is a slow, almost glacial process. Managers must beware of the trap of failing to model the organization's stated (desired) values, but asking of staff that which they are unwilling to do themselves. This will do naught but lead to cynical, noninvolved staff. Leading by example is essential.

The organization's values should be key to and provide the context for all HSO activities. These values must be the context in which staff are recruited, screened, and hired. Failure to measure candidates against the framework in which they will work invariably lead to mismatches of context and staff. The result will be higher costs and unnecessary and counterproductive levels of dissatisfaction, or worse. In terms of the HSO's services and how they are provided, its values should be inviolate. This is to say that, despite the demands of users, the organization can maintain its integrity only if it refuses to act in ways inconsistent with its values. It must be true to itself.

Questions arise as to the need for congruence between the organization's values and the personal ethic of staff, especially staff in management positions. Sectarian HSOs are likely to demand that senior leadership be adherents to their faith, a decision within the prerogatives of private organizations. It is more important, however, and often forgotten, that the values (personal ethic) of staff at all levels be congruent with the HSO's. Only by achieving a high level of congruence is the HSO able to live its values by developing a strong, pervasive culture. Managers may assume staff members have a tabula rasa or a generally compatible value system, and then must teach the HSO's culture tothem; the HSO's values must be reinforced by the actions of all, especially those in leadership positions. A strong culture, with clearly defined and shared values, will drive from it those whose interests and actions are contrary and this in itself is a worthy goal. High levels of cultural conformity do tend to stifle innovation, but this risk can be overcome in other ways, such as including innovation as an identified, important value in the culture.

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