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“[M]ission, vision, and values constitute the most important information to pass on to employees, not to mention patients and visitors.”

–Christina Dempsey, The Antidote to Suffering: How Compassionate Connected Care Can Improve Safety, Quality, and Experience

Chapter Goals

  • Describe the ideal statement of values and explain why the values statements of many healthcare organizations do not effectively inspire employees or create competitive distinction in the marketplace.

  • Describe the Values > Behaviors > Outcomes Continuum and explain why it is important for motivating the behaviors that are required to achieve valued outcomes.

  • Discuss the importance of coherence between the posted values of the organization and the internalized personal values of the individual.

  • Discuss the importance of core values in times of adversity.

A statement of values is, or should be, the single most important document in your organization; it is, or should be, the set of guiding principles that defines cultural norms and performance expectations. Even your organization’s vision and mission statements should be rooted in the underpinning core values. This is because any mission you can devise and any vision you can foresee will ultimately be a reflection, or a projection, of core values. In the Invisible Architecture model of an organization, those values are the foundation on which the superstructure of organizational culture rests and the interior finish of workplace attitude are built.

As we said in Chapter 1, an effective statement of values defines who you are, what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for. A powerful statement of values that is embraced by everyone in the organization is an essential element of a Culture of Ownership. The organization’s core values should be introduced in the recruiting process, reinforced in new employee orientation, and revitalized in staff meetings, in nursing unit huddles, and at other opportunities on an ongoing basis. And there should be an expectation that employees know these values by heart (not just by rote memorization—by heart). This is especially true for members of the management team. To be blunt about it, not expecting employees to know the core values of an organization by heart sells them short with the assumption that they either are not smart enough or do not care enough to make the effort. Five-year-olds can memorize complex songs like “The Fifty Nifty United States,” so healthcare executives should expect employees, and especially managers, to know the core values of the organization and to be able to talk intelligently about what those values mean at a personal level.

A climate of permissive indifference to whether employees really know the core values can profoundly undermine the performance potential of the organization. An employee engagement survey completed by Modern Survey (2013) found a direct and powerful correlation between employees having internalized the organization’s values and their being engaged in the workplace. According to Modern Survey president Don MacPherson:


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