Today, July 11, 2007, Dayton Power & Light (DPL) released their new values statement - Our Unifying Values. It was a project that I had the privilege of working on with a team of 16 employees from all parts of the company. It is a statement that reflects not some committee's thrown-together mish-mash of ideas to get scrutiny off their backs. Instead, it is a statement that symbolizes the unity that came to this team through hard hours of discussion, reflection and decision.
As with projects like these the outcome is never certain. This is because we aren't writing a policy statement about some technical aspect of their business.
A values statement is a declaration to the world about what the employees, executives and board members believe about their relationships to one another, to their customers, their communities and their industry.
Read through this statement. There are four main values that set a standard for decisions, actions and behavior at DPL. Imagine how the multitude of decisions and actions that take place every day are guided by,
Each one means something to the people of DPL beyond the abstract notions they convey. These words are statements first by the values team to the rest of the company about their love and devotion to DPL. These ideas are intended to reignite a way of doing business that long-time employees remember being indicative of DPL twenty years ago.
This statement is no nostalgic walk on the beach. Instead it is a belief in the greatness of their company. In a time of wide-spread cynicism towards business, here are employees of a company who are saying to their customers, their communities and their industry that the greatness of their company is truly found in its people.
As I write these words, I realize that I may sound like a typical sensationalist marketer "selling" an image that does not exist. This is not the case. It has been a long time since I worked with a group of people who believed that their company could be greater than it is, and were committed to making it happen.
In the moments leading up to the choice of a statement, the emotion in the room was such that each person realized that what was being achieved was greater than any one person's effort. It was a transformative moment that we all felt. I congratulate the values team for sticking with a very hard and difficult process.
Here's how Paul Barbas, DPL's CEO, less than a year into the job, described the process.
Following a tumultuous period in both our industry and Company, one of my first orders of business in the role of CEO was to develop a “bottoms-up” set of core values for our Company so that it would be clear to our employees and stakeholders what DPL stood for going forward. ... (And) lead a team of employees from various ranks within our organization, both union and management, through a challenging journey that resulted in a set of values that have been universally well received throughout our Company.
(The) approach (used) allowed for every member of the team to contribute in a positive manner and assume ownership of the end product. This is evident by the fact that the team has not only requested but demanded to stay intact to see the deployment phase of the process through. ... the team itself has become the best example of what this organization can achieve.
What is not said in these words is the importance of Paul Barbas' demonstration of trust in this team. At our first meeting, he introduced me and then said to this very diverse team of employees that the values statement they would create would be DPL's statement. As a leader, he did what many fail to do, delegate responsibility and accountability with genuine confidence and trust. Without his trust in them, and consequently their trust in him, this statement would not have been written. It was a great act of leadership empowerment. He did it by simply by saying "I trust you to develop a statement that is best for our company. I will implement what you create."
What the statement says about DPL and its people.
The title "Our Unifying Values" says two things.
One that these values are shared throughout the company, and two that they are intended to be used to constantly seek unity. The principle of unity was an important one for the team, not only because they had experienced a time of disunity at DPL. But also because of the shared experience of reading Tom Morris' great book If Aristotle Ran General Motors. In that book Tom, my colleague, who heads the Morris Institute for Human Values, writes about how unity meets four spiritual needs: Uniqueness, Usefulness, Union and Understanding. Each of these needs were met through this process.
Each set of values addresses real issues.
Respect & Trust - The importance of the relationships that employees have with one another, between union and management and with their customers, their communities and the industry.
Integrity - In an Enron era, here we have a team of employees saying that integrity is key element in maintaining respect and confidence in the company. They are absolutely right.
Pride - From all the employees that I met over the three months of this project, they all exhibited a commitment to doing their best for their company.
Writing a values statement does not automatically translate into trust and excellence for a company. The hard part for DPL is to live up to their commitment. However, because the process that we conducted was a broad-based grassroots effort, it gives the statement a great chance to become a manifesto for action throughout the company. Deployment of a values statement is part education and part development as a tool for team building, decision-making and evaluation. It becomes a guide for knowing what is appropriate when the situation is confused.
I'll write more about the purpose and impact of a values statement in a separate posting. Until then, join me in celebrating with the people of DPL the launch of "Our Unifying Values."