Munafo Core Values: MCV12 — Hold Core Values and Standards to the Hierarchy of Purpose  


Hold Core Values and Standards to the Hierarchy of Purpose

"Core values" are the patterns of behavior expected by or exhibited by, either a single individual or all individuals in a group. The term standards is perhaps more common. I use both in the wording of the title above, because:

Apart from my own core values, other examples are the oath, motto, etc. of the Boy Scouts of America and the Code of Honor from the old Sterling Men's Division.

Core Values and Standards Serve Your Mission and Purpose

The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with core values and/or standards is that they are only a means to an end. Here for reference is the hierarchy of task, goals, mission and purpose from the priorities article:

Stated Intentions serve Tasks and Actions

Tasks and Actions serve Goals and Projects

Goals and Projects serve Mission and/or Purpose

(and the Mission/Purpose must be yours — see MCV02)

Core values and standards occupy a position that is subservient to the mission/purpose. Where they fit in the hierarchy depends on the specific core value or standard. You must keep this in mind when you find that you do not seem to be making progress towards your mission or purpose. Here is an example:

For example, someone might have "Keep Your Word" as one of their core values. While this is a very important part of teamwork, it has flaws (such as those illustrated in the commitment article).

Sometimes a plan that you make (and promise to others) will turn out to have been a bad idea. Often, less harm and more good will result if the plan is changed, even if that means "breaking your word". One must identify when a commitment to a lower-level thing (such as a task or a goal) must be abandoned (and possibly replaced) in order to keep the higher-level commitment to a project, mission, or purpose.

Similar arguments apply to other standards and core values. The overall principle is that your mission or purpose must take precedence over individual core values or standards. This is particularly true for task-oriented standards like "be on time", which leads to the next point:

Core Values are Not Rules

Core values are taken on by the person or people who are upholding them, not imposed on a person by another. This is discussed more fully in its own section in my core values article.

As illustrated here, a standard is like a "New Year's Resolution" but doesn't work if it is imposed on someone by another:

True story: I have actually been micro-managed by a committee (it was a non-paying job, of course.)
Imposed "Core Values"

Core Values are Often Unspoken

Core Values do not always have to be spoken, understood consciously, or agreed upon. In the times before language, and in situations where communication by language is impossible, people nevertheless follow core values. In fact, the most important core values are of this "unspoken" type. Often, words cannot fully express what the core value is about.

Most of the ancient "warrior codes" and codes of conduct, were unspoken core values. Later they made their way into language, the oral tradition, and eventually into writing. Along the way they became the basis for systems of morality and law.

The expression of core values through language greatly raises the risk of control or manipulation for unethical purposes. For that reason core values need to be vigilantly inspected against possible abuse. In particular, examine the situation to see if language is being used to change people's opinion on a "core value" they would otherwise not agree with, to create deterrence or to suppress dissent.

Keeping core values, in relationships and larger groups, often involves responsive behavior (behavior that reacts to the behavior of another). If the responsive behavior appears inappropriate or raises objection, it is important to examine it to determine if it is consistent with what people in a similar situation would do if language were not available. In particular, look to see if you or the other person is taking a position that is justified (explained) by words, but which would be indefensible without words. In such cases the nonverbal way must prevail.

Being Attentive

Following this core value includes being aware of your own core values, and those of others. If there are problems in relationship or teamwork, it is often because core values are lacking.

Core Values Must Be Essential

Core values (or "standards") should support and reinforce one's priorities without restricting the ability to pursue success in new ways.

The standards article discusses different types of core values and how a group can agree on a comprehansive set.

MCV12 for Teams

When this core value is present:

The team has core values (many or all of which wil be unspoken; it takes some time on a team to perceive the nature of, and effectiveness of, the unspoken core values) (+mcv12a)

The team keeps its core values in the forefront (core values are "present" as a tangible entity). They need not be spoken to be in the forefront. (+mcv12b)

The team adjusts or consciously re-evaluates its core values when new members join the team. (+mcv12c)

The team consciously chooses core values that address its mission or purpose over those that are focused on specific policies, methods, or tasks. (+mcv12d)

When this core value is lacking:

The team does not have or follow any core values (although the individual members might all have their own personal core values) (-mcv12a)

The team forgets, neglects or does not follow its core values. (-mcv12b)

The team presents its core values as a responsibility to (one or more of) its members, without giving them the corresponding right to be involved in setting or re-evaluating the core values. (-mcv12c)

The team uses core values to restrict itself to specific policies, methods, or tasks, when more universal core values would serve the group's purpose at least as well or better. (-mcv12d)

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