Thursday 17 September 2009

Values and mojos


Mojo_X-Men_ep-24 I wrote in my last but one post that I’d follow up on my review of Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s description of Procter & Gamble’s value-led strategy with some more notes on the role of values in supporting organisational mojo.

Firstly, I should explain that I’m not generally a fan of organisational values (see this post).

This may surprise you?

After all, I post fairly regularly on the need for organisations to be clear about how they’re going to operate (their mojo) and then to compete on the way that they’ve structured themselves around this (their organisational capabilities).

I just find it difficult to feel positively about the role of values in supporting mojo and organisational capability.

This is partly about my own experience.  None of the best change processes I’ve been involved in – as an employee, a line manager, an HR Director or a consultant – have involved them.  And some of the very superficial and ineffective change exercises that I’ve been involved in (not, I hasten to say, as a change leader) have placed a new set of values at the very centre of the change.

I also don’t like the idea that people should be asked to change their own values to fit with an organisations.  Again, this perspective comes largely from my own introspection and the fact that I’ve never really changed my own values to fit with an organisation’s – at least not as a result of any intentional strategy of, and deliberate actions taken by, an organisation.

However, I do recognise the benefit of values within recruitment – to ensure that people are only recruited when they have the values that the organisation wants them to exhibit.

In addition, I have changed my values when I’ve seen the benefits of, and been engaged by, an organisation’s values.  That is, they’ve not asked me to change my values – but I’ve been personally compelled to do so.

Of course, I’d argue that what really compelled me to change was the organisation’s mojo, its organisational capabilities and its culture – not it’s values.  But I suppose values can have a role in helping to articulate what the organisation’s mojo / capabilities / culture are about.  This is going to help organisational leaders, and employees, ensure that their actions are aligned with their mojo, and as long as this is the way that values are used, then doing this is only going to help.

In my next couple of posts, I’m going to look at some case studies that may shine some further light on this…



Image: Mojo in an episode of the X-Men animated series

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    1. I am indeed surprised, Jon.

      Hence, I went into the link to understand where you were coming from.

      Correct me if I am wrong. It seems like you are ambivalent on this. You do acknowledge in value led strategies (and do not mind "adjusting" your values if it's effective (or perceived to be so)in bringing results.

      You said you'd rather believe in mojo rather than values. (Actually this word is new to me and does not even appear in my concise Oxford Dictionary that I have been carrying around for ages - time to upgrade!)

      Frankly, I don't quite like magic and charm or charisma. It sounds more illusive and mystic.

      My understanding of mojo(to some extend thankfully helped by your post on the subject)is that it comprises of the external focus - core competency -(as coined by Hammel& Prahalad) and internal drive - self actualisation" of employees"

      As I see it, it is the value system that forms the core in driving both. We all acknowledge it is tough making values stick, but is that not what the challenge to leaders and followers - mankind per se - is?. Is it different in the world of business?. Why?.

      I once had a Singaporean expatriate as head of Business tell me, "I will not accept a bribe but would not hesitate to close a deal". It has nothing to do with the country's value, but rather the organisational values imbued into the culture - Ethics is not important.

      If an organisation does not believe in values like ethics, integrity and trust, then bribery and corrupt practices and behaviour will be rampant. Is that not how the world got burnt by the spiral of economic mess?.

      Let me quote from a recent report,
      "Firms gave out RM140bil in bribes
      Companies in developing countries have been giving bribes to corrupt politicians and government officials amounting to US$40bil (RM140bil) every year, says a report on global corruption. The Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector (GCR) conducted by Transparency International (TI), also revealed that half of international business executives polled estimated that corruption raised project costs by at least 10%.

      Consumers around the world were overcharged about US$300bil (RM1.5tril) through almost 300 private international groups discovered from 1990 to 2005, the report added.
      Guess who is being ripped off - Consumers, people like you and me.

      When it comes to driving values, I subscribe to "believe in seeing" - I still champion for a value based and driven society both profit and non profit organisations)who can think and shape their "self righteousness" mode of survival.

      "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing " - Edmund Burke

    2. Wow, there's a lot in here, Yuvarajah.

      I'm not against basic values (values that everyone / all organisations should share). Firms shouldn't offer / accept bribes. But they don't need a specific set of values, eg including being against bribery, to stop this. They need clear policies, sponsorship, training and monitoring.

      It's this specific set of values, the organisational values that should sit over the basic values, and that apply to one particular employer vs all organisations, that I don't like.

      And I don't like them because I don't think they work in a lot of cases (eg Enron's values of Integrity, Communication, Respect and Excellence) and because I don't think they're needed.

      The ambivalence you're picking up is because I understand that an organisation may want to use values to express what it feels is important - as there aren't many other good words available for this. But I don't like the idea that existing (vs newly recruited) employees should be asked to accept a new set of values just because they're employed by a particular employer.

      I think an employer can ask for and expect certain behaviours, a level of commitment etc, but it shouldn't expect particular beliefs, values etc (above those basic values I referred to above) - unless it's hiring people for them. These values 'belong' to the employee, not the organisation.

      Of course, if the values are lived strongly enough, and are shown to be effective, then people may chose to take them on (this is what I did in the example I referred to). But I think this is something very different to the values being actively promoted. (In my example, the firm didn't have a set of values, but did a lot of other things to make it clear to everyone what the organisation was about).

      So this is why I prefer the term mojo (which I picked for this usage myself - you won't find anyone else - apart from Marshall Goldsmith of course - using it in this context). And I don't use it to convey anything to do with 'magic' or 'mysticism' but something about 'centralism' and 'importance'.

      Mojo is a bit broader than values, and a bit more strategic. I've got a couple of case studies coming up that should explain it better.

      It's also a bit different to core competencies - it fits with organisational capability rather than these - see

      But yes, I think it is directly comparable to internal drive for an individual person. I think this is where Goldsmith is going to be coming from in his blog.


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