Are your Institution’s values “Laminated” or “Lived”?

I feel I have been around for long enough to know that being clear about what really matters to me and living into that space as much as possible is what abstractions like integrity and authenticity and living the good life are all about.

It’s very hard work.

It comes with very hard choices at times.

And it never ends.

It is easy to become rather cynical about organisational exercises to clarify and publish values. It’s very hard to find a set of values that one disagrees with. Almost all (expressed) values are good. Published values statements (i.e. the laminated version!) are almost universally impressive and attractive.

The challenge, however, becomes whether you can identify an organisation’s values when dealing with it or its key representatives! There is often such a gulf between the espoused (articulated; laminated; published;) values and the values-in-action. i.e. the behaviours of the institution and its people.

I’m curious and it has led me to consider the following for the businesses that I am part of:

  • Did we mean what we signed up to?
  • Did we ever explore what behaviours were implied by the values we agreed?
  • Is there an additional set of values, unexpressed, that we expect and reward?
  • Did we intend to ‘live’ these values or did we consider the job done when we ‘laminated’ the list?

Values really matter to people both in their personal and professional lives – even if they don’t talk about them in these terms. Where there is dissonance between what people really value and how they live and work there will be disconnect and loss of energy and disengagement, possibly even cynicism, burnout and depression. We pay a huge price in our organisations for misalignment between our laminated and lived values.

As we turn a new page post-pandemic we have a unique opportunity to align the laminated and the lived. As part of this, I encourage you to answer the questions above in the context of your organisation. 

If you have any thoughts on the above, we would love to hear from you.

(N.B. QED also provides “Best Practice” workshops – including workshops  on building or renewing mission, vision and values.  Talk to us to learn more.)


(Joan Baker, QED Leadership Consultant)