Keeping your Startup Aligned with your Values

What are the values of the organization? Can those outside (or inside) the organization tell
what your values are? Can they watch how the members of the organization behave and infer the values?

Values are the filters through which decisions are run. Values are cultural norms that describe the basis for acceptable behavior. With repetition, recognition and reward, and reinforcement, values form practical habits that form observable behavior (Pearce, 2005).

Values should not be the “me too” statements that a lot of companies use, like Quality, Ethics, Honesty, etc. Whatever is claimed. Define what you mean. Don’t just use one word.

In his book, “The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business,” Patrick Lencioni categorizes values in four types:

Most Desireable

Least Desireable

CORE (Only 2 or 3)




Behavioral traits – inherent in the organization

At the heart of the organization’s identity

Do not change over time

Must already exist – cannot be contrived

Organization wants to have, wishes it already had, and believes that it must develop in order to maximize its success in its current environment

Neither natural nor inherent – must be purposefully inserted

Minimum behavioral standards that are required in an organization

Don’t serve to clearly define or differentiate an organization


Have come unintentionally

Don’t necessarily serve the good of the organization

Everyone looks the same, dresses the same, behaves the same, same school

(Lencioni, 2012)

What the organization should seek are the “Core” values. Core values should be chosen as
how to discriminate the organization from others.

After the organization sets their values, they should not change much. However, overt action should be taken to keep them at the forefront.

REPEAT – Most training is based on repetition. However, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” So, remind them. Post the values, put them on cards that can be posted in conference rooms and offices. Mention them in internal communications and measurement.

RECOGNIZE AND REWARD – Motivate people to exhibit the values and encourage others to do so. Recognize them publicly. Reward them privately.

REINFORCE – Leaders reinforce the values through their behavior. Get feedback from
customers and suppliers and share it with the team.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in
fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently a volunteer with the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator, SCORE, and the Troy Historic Village and Historical Society.

REFERENCES: 1) Pearce II, R. A., Robinson Jr., R. B., (2005) Strategic Management.
Formulation, Implementation and Control. McGraw Hill Irwin. 9th Edition. 2) Lencioni, P.M. (2012) The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Jossey-Bass; A Wiley Imprint. San Francisco, CA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s