Why Knowing and Articulating Values is Essential to Good Decision-Making

Business owners making policy decisions are attempting to realize and experience a value proposition. Owners decide between options based on a perspective of personal values. Most business owners have not spent time thinking about their personal value systems. It is difficult to evaluate the soundness of a decision if the value system it is to support and enforce is not clearly understood.

Even if owners have not defined or articulated their values, owners will have a sense of what their values are. Decisions that conflict with personal values will not seem right and not be satisfying. These emotional reactions to conflict between values and decisions over time can create an accumulating tension leading to emotional acts. These emotions often create disputes among owners. Not only is it important to take the time to define a personal value system, but it is also important to do the work of articulating these values to other owners as a part of the decision-making process.

When defining values relating to ownership of a business, it is not helpful to declare a moral virtue. To say that one intends to be honest certainly recognizes a core value, but it is more helpful to state a specific favorable result within a three year period. For example, it is very helpful to articulate to other owners that it is important to an owner to increase the value of the business as much as possible in three years and sell the business to convert the owner’s value in the business now at business risk to personal funds that can be invested at investment risk. Articulating this value to the other owners is indeed a way to demonstrate honesty and forthrightness. For another example, it is very helpful to articulate the desire that the owner’s daughter should be involved in the management of the business in the near future also demonstrating honesty and forthrightness.

To perceive core values, reflect upon the circumstances of your experience and aspirations – the principles that shape thoughts, desires, feelings, choices, and behavior – and describe those principles in writing. This will allow you as an owner to articulate specific statements relevant to the ownership of the business and convey values. A written values statement is essential to the owner’s ability to articulate the owner’s values to the other owners. This is a difficult but extremely important thing to do.

Where there is conflict, the first step toward resolution should be to examine the decision-making process. Is the process the same one for each decision-maker? Is the knowledge base the same for each decision-maker? Many conflicts are resolved where the knowledge bases are different and that difference is resolved by sharing knowledge. Other conflicts occur because certain influential opinions have not been considered by all or there is a lack of communication among stakeholders. Again, the communication can be shared and the conflict resolved. If the conflict is not due to a difference in the decision-making process, then a difference in values is causing the conflict. If the values cannot be expressed, then resolving the conflict becomes much more difficult.

Where there are expressed values and those values appear to conflict, the question should be: is there a way to go forward by revising personal owner values to recognize group concerns, or is there a way to allow a deviant owner to realize certain unique value concerns?

Values will of course change from time to time based on the owner’s experiences and concerns. Values may change because of life circumstances, a change in perception, efforts to come to a common view of the business, or a variety of other reasons. These changes should be reelected in the written statement of values which is the principal tool allowing an effective articulation of values.

Business owners who have made a written values statement will be making policy decisions with a defined value proposition. Owners who have spent time thinking about their personal value systems will be able to evaluate the soundness of a decision. By articulating these values to other owners, conflicts in decision making can more easily be resolved.

Good decision-making depends on the ability to decide with clearly defined values and then evaluate the decision as it is executed against the value proposition.