From Writing Values to Agreeing Upon Goals

As difficult as it is to write out your values, it is also difficult to write goals from values. A goal will be a statement of where a business should be after the application of efforts toward the manifesting of the values statement. The hard work of writing a values statement is the basis for setting meaningful goals.

A values statement should not simply state core values such as honesty, loyalty, and determination, it should provide a practical description of the manifestation of those and other core values. With this values statement, the goals deriving from it should be practical and achievable providing a vision of what could be accomplished.

It helps to have an example. Because I have a core value of accomplishing the transferring of value owned by me in the business from business risk to lower personal investment risk, I will articulate to my co-owners, that I want to maximize the value of the business and actively work to sell the business within the next three years. This is another way of saying that I do not want to be an owner of the business after three years. A stated business goal resulting from this values statement could be the accomplishment of specific acts leading to selling the business. Another goal might be to retain earnings in the business to increase its value and interest to prospective buyers.

Another example: I have core values of developing the business value over the long term and being honest with my spouse. I will articulate to my co-owners of the business, that I do not want to participate in a decision or action in the business that I cannot disclose to my spouse. This is another way of stating that there is much about the business that I will discuss with my spouse because it will be the source of my financial future. A stated business goal of this values statement could be that all benefits and succession planning be explained and disclosed to all owner’s spouses and heirs. Another goal might be to establish an annual valuation of the business which is fully disclosed to heirs and spouses.

A business goal, as opposed to a personal goal, requires the agreement of the policy decision-making members of the decision-making group of the business. Most of the time this group includes business owners. If there is a sharing of personal values and personal goals, the establishment of business goals from these statements may not be clear, but if it is accomplished, there will be strength in the consolidation area where the shared values lead to a determination measured in action results.

It is almost certain that if owners articulate their values to one another, these values will conflict to some degree; but there also will be areas of agreement. To the extent the business is ongoing, the question is to what degree this area of concurrence exists and to what extent common goals can be stated. Determining how to mesh value systems is a dialogue that is the center of successful business planning. Sometimes the prudent course is to plan not to be in business together, but at least this occurs as a plan, not a conflict resulting in a dispute. The values systems of one owner will influence the values system of another owner. If there is an articulation of values, what initially begins as a conflict, might transcend to be a concurrence and a source of subsequent strength.

When setting a goal, it is important to set an attainable goal. There is nothing worse for operations morale than an impractical, unrealistic, and unattainable goal. If the goal deals with the realm of the possible then it also provides a test of the values statement motivating it.

When goals are not reached, the revision process of planning should start with a re-examination of the values proposition. What is possible should influence the concept of what is desired.

The quality of planning decision-making is directly based on the work done with the values statement, the sharing of values among decision-makers, and the translation of those values to the real world of setting business goals.