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Quick!!.... What is your reaction to these words?
BS.... Boring ....O.K. ....Good Stuff.... Excellent

Some, if not all, of these values are espoused by the NGOs I have worked with around the world. But two questions always remain. The first is, do these values increase impact? The second is, do these values drive our action and behavior? Do NGOs model these values for others? In other words, our organization may say it believes in participation, but, as soon as things get difficult (if not sooner), forget participation, the boss is going to make all the decisions based on information only the boss has and the staff had better like it.

I have noticed that these values above are essentially contrary to traditional organizational values in every culture I have worked in. The traditional values of organizations which we learn and adopt from childhood are top down control oriented values. Since we have absorbed these top down values uncritically from childhood we tend to fall back on them when we get to be bosses and also when crisis strike.

Here is a little Values Test for bosses. When a crisis hits and it feels like your whole organization is falling to pieces with conflict and sabotage, do you:

  1. Get together with your closest associates or consultants and make quick decisions and then tell the rest of the staff what they will do?

  2. Get everyone involved together (or their representatives) lay out the issues, explore different points of view, and work with everyone to meet the crisis or solve the problem (using an outside facilitator if necessary)?

I suspect that most managers and leaders in NGOs, and other organizations for that matter, would feel drawn to the first solution.

Here is a question. Can a person working and living in an organizational system which is top down, opaque, and disempowering behave in a transparent, participatory, and empowering manner to his or her target group?

By the way ... On the topic of values, here is an article on how companies are rejecting traditional organizational values as ineffective and attempting to operationalize a new set of people oriented empowering values.

A Company of Businesspeople

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