Our deepest roost are in our values
Case study: A very large pharmacy chain called us and asked for the support of the Adizes Institute to try to avoid it from splitting in two or if it was unavoidable at least to get the best out the situation and help with the very difficult transition. As you can imagine, when a client gives you this type of briefing you know you are in for a rough ride.
The problem: The sale of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) in the pharmacies was very lucrative. Being by far the very cheapest way of getting drunk and now not only being popular with alcoholics, but now also becoming popular with students, the sales had skyrocketed. It was also a product with a very high margin, so the company was making a lot of money. On the other hand while ethanol is consumed when drinking alcoholic beverages, consuming ethanol alone can cause coma and death. Ethanol is also linked to certain types of cancer.
The situation was the following: The two founders of the pharmacy chain had a values conflict and neither one or the other wanted to budge on their stand. One said that it was not up to them, but the government, to make the rules about who could buy what products. He also said that they had a moral obligation to sell ethanol because they were a pharmacy and the product is used to cure. The other said that they had a moral obligation to stop the sale of ethanol in their pharmacies since it was used for other purposes and that he could not live with himself should something happen to a child drinking it. They were already in talks about how to divide the company up in two and had started to make formal valuations of the company.
The talks were not simple and it took us some time just to get them talking, but they finally decided to take the first few steps of the Adizes Institutes methodology. Through our guidance we found a way for both to be happy with the outcome, where their values were not encroached upon. The result seems simple now, but far from it when we started. They decided to reduce the size of the bottles to something that would not make sense as a “party mixer” and increase the price as well to keep the same profit, without selling to children.
Now in this situation we had two people that had a strong difference in values and that we can work with.
In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen to anyone is not to have the “wrong” values or different values, it is to have no values at all. Values in a narrow sense is that which we feel is good, desirable, or worthwhile to us; the manner in which we treat ourselves and others, our interaction with the world around us and the sort of person we want to be. Values are basic and fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate attitudes or actions. They are the ends to which we act and come in many forms. Personal values are personal beliefs about right and wrong and may or may not be considered moral. Cultural values are values accepted by religions or societies and reflect what is important in each context.
Values is concerned with human actions, and the choice of those actions. It is a determining factor in what we decide should be pursued, and that which shouldn’t.
Value specifies a relationship between a person and a goal. It is relational in the sense that what one person values may not be what another person values even in the same situation. For example, a person who values honesty might blow the whistle on someone committing fraud whereas another person who values loyalty may remain silent. This is an example of values conflict. The honest person may believe there are limits to loyalty and keeping quiet about a wrongful act out of loyalty might harm others. The loyal person may believe in the importance of keeping one’s confidence even if it might harm others because of the trusting relationship.
Some values stand up well over the test of time; they are always good or rightful behavior. Trust and Respect are two such examples. It is difficult to imagine having a satisfying relationship without them because they build trust in relationships. There are always exceptions but they are rare.
I think that these are my two favorite values as they are at the core of the success any personal relationship and I stand strong in my belief that any values can be turned into excellences of character with practice and repetition. We become virtuous by being virtuous. We use practical wisdom to make decisions about what virtuous behavior is. Does this make sense to you? It certainly does to me.
7 sources of conflict
As part of our work within organizational transformation, one of the biggest tasks of the Adizes Institute is to teach people to work together and as you can imagine this is not always easy. We have detected that there are 7 sources of conflict, some of which are easy to resolve, some which are extremely complicated. The most complicated of all is when we find that there is a values conflict.
When you encounter a values conflict the best thing to do is to take a step back and slow down. You know you will need time to resolve the situation and that the outcome is not always guaranteed. We know we will need to create understanding through a framework that includes amongst other the following elements:
- Defining the situation
- Getting understanding for the different perceptions
- Disclosing roles and personal interest
- Defining the Public Interest
- Codifying ethical norms and practices.
- Creating a mechanism for implementing the decision
- Providing norms for reward and punishment.
One place we area sure to find values-based conflicts is in public policy. Indeed, nearly all public policy controversies entail divergent beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust. Many policy decisions are essentially choices among competing values. Simply consider how: efforts to promote equal opportunity might result in conflicts among values such as efficiency, justice, equality, diversity, merit, and individual achievement; crime prevention policies might trigger competition among values such as liberty, safety, due process, equity, effectiveness, access, and justice; and domestic security policies might produce conflict among values such as knowledge generation, information sharing, confidentiality, privacy, civil liberties, individual rights, and safety.
One of the reasons why our founder Dr. Ichak Adizes and the Adizes Institute are called not only to support in very complicated company conflicts, between large shareholders or different generations, but also local and even national governments is that we are experts and very successful in resolving even this type of conflict.
Conflict is good, since it is an necessary part of change, but a conflict only becomes constructive when we are able to overcome it. As we saw in the case study about the chain of pharmacies, the rewards of overcoming such conflicts are enormous, especially when we put in the context of the downside.