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Posted on Sep 30, 2016

6 Questions to Ask When Conducting a Values Review

6 Questions to Ask When Conducting a Values Review

So, you’ve identified and clearly defined your organization’s core values. You’ve communicated them internally to the team and externally to customers. You’ve established a reward and recognition program to help reinforce the values.

Now what?

Maybe it’s time to consider the following questions:

  • Are the values making an impact?
  • Do they need to be revised, removed, or replaced with a more relevant value?
  • When should you do a Values Review, and what does that look like?

Let’s first address the question about timing, and then address how to conduct a Values Review.

Values Review Timing

Values word written on paperI recommend to clients that a Values Review be conducted annually, and sometimes semi-annually such as when an organization is in hyper-growth mode, there are new competitive threats, or multiple values violations are occurring internally. I also recommend conducting a Values Review six, twelve, and eighteen months after initially launching a set of values, to assess the level of awareness and understanding internally.

Other triggers for a Values Review include: the acquisition of or merger with another company; a major shift in strategic direction; or a sudden external threat such as the introduction of new government regulations.

Here a few reasons that are NOT a legitimate reason to do a Values Review:

  • The hiring of a new CEO (or any other senior leader).
  • Significant turnover in employees and/or managers.
  • Significant issues with a company’s products/services.

When there is turmoil inside a company, NO changes should be made to the values as the values are the ONE THING that helps keep everyone focused on what truly matters.

Values Review Questions

Question-marks-with-one-redConducting a Values Review is similar to conducting an employee performance review, except the performance being assessed is that of the organization. In fact, I often think of an organization as a living breathing entity, as that’s how it behaves (as I wrote in a previous post).

When conducting a Values Review, here are the 6 key questions I recommend exploring internally:

  1. How have our values served us well over the past year (or time period)?
  2. How have our values hindered us over the past year (or time period)?
  3. What does the team appreciate the MOST about our values, right now?
  4. What does the team appreciate the LEAST about our values, right now?
  5. If we could change just ONE thing about values, what would it be, and why?
  6. If we could improve just ONE thing about our values, what would it be, and why?

Of interest, I find the order of these questions matter as it leads to better overall responses.

But who should answers these questions?

For small companies (<20 employees), I recommend asking everyone these 6 questions, ideally in a group setting of 6-10 people (i.e. two groups of 10 or three groups of 6-7). Note: it may be helpful to engage a third party facilitator to guide the conversations and uncover relevant responses.

For companies with more than 20 employees, I recommend a combination approach to obtain answers to these questions.

  • Conduct 2 to 3 small group discussions, with groups of 6-10 people in each. Discuss the 6 questions to uncover and obtain a basket of responses (e.g. 3-5 for each question).
  • Using the most pertinent responses from the group discussions (e.g. 3 x 6 questions = 18 responses), construct a survey for all employees using an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey. The objective of the survey is to evaluate relevance and priority of all responses across the entire company.

There is no one right way to obtain answers to these 6 questions. But here’s the guideline I follow: use discussion groups to uncover a basket of responses (qualitative research); and use surveys to determine priorities and direction (quantitative research).

Benefits of a Values Review

Just imagine for a moment, having a list of items (think stories) where the values have served the organization well. That’s a powerful list! Then imagine having a list of what the team appreciates most about the values. That’s potent insight!

Now, imagine having a greater understanding of where the values have been a hindrance and what the team does not like about the values. Then, having a list of ideas on what might be improved with the existing values and/or suggested replacement values that are more relevant to the mission and vision. This is extremely powerful data.

But at the end of the day, remember why you are doing a Values Review. It’s not for the purpose of making a change. It’s for the purpose of reinforcing the values and ensuring the organization preserves its unique qualities – and competitive edge.


What other questions would you ask in a Values Review?