In the 2001 book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about companies that reach and sustain greatness. They achieve this by finding what they can be the best in the world at, by understanding clearly where their profitability comes from, and they are deeply passionate about what they do.

Can everyone in an organisation really be passionate about what they do?

Having shared values and a clear purpose is one way that organisations generate passion. Leaders’ decisions and behaviours must consistently embody those values so they permeate the culture to the point where staff can also make decisions based on those values.

Values are a phrase, not just a word

Many organisations have a set of values but are they meaningful and are they routinely tested? Describing a value as a phrase helps put much more meaning in a value than using a single word. New organisations should challenge the validity of their values after a year or two, and potentially do some tweaking to make the values more meaningful and useful. To be useful, values should guide decision making.

Older organisations may have had the same values for years, but through growth, acquisition, and general turnover, there may be a need to re-communicate the values to new staff.

How are values arrived at?

If you haven’t established clear values in your organisation, your leadership may choose to go through a process of discovery to capture the initial ‘ideal’ values. Then over a period of time challenge and refine these to the point where they will ignite passion and be enduring.

Perhaps they will take your organisation from good to sustainable greatness.