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Values Framework

The theory on values is vast! At EVS, we use a framework to help practioners make sense of the dynamics of values. It was developed by one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century, Theodore Maslow, and our research confirms its validity in a management context.

Maslow Pyramid

Theodore Maslow, a developmental psychologist and one of the best known theorists in business, was the first to postulate that values are driven by underlying needs, which is now echoed by a variety of theorists. Part of our research was to determine whether an executive's values system corresponded to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. We found that they do: value systems correspond to and are driven by an individuals (changing) underlying needs. Our needs and values drive our perception of reality, 'mind-set',' world view' and behaviour.

Maslow's experience led him to the insight that as human beings we are all born with a set of needs that drive our attitudes and behaviours. These needs are complex and form what we call our "value system". His theory illustrated the nature of the changes in values systems through the life of every person. The changes are hierarchical in nature, i.e. some needs need to be met before other needs become important as a determinant of attitudes and behaviours. These "needs", portrayed in the pyramid, shape the way we view "reality" and therefore drive our behaviours.

The basic model of the Hierarchy of Needs provides 3 levels of Needs. This model helps practitioners to understand the dominant motivation of an individual, how they are likely to change in response to different factors, and the dynamics of change at the individual, societal and corporate level.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory is often misrepresented. Key to understanding the model is:

  • All humans have a "need" to grow/change/mature. Maslow is quoted as saying, "As a painter needs to paint, a man needs to grow",
  • Humans possess all of these needs,
  • Each one of us has a dominant need and values,
  • A need "satisfied" is no longer a dominant need. A need, defined by its level in the pyramid, once satisfied is no longer a need ,
  • There is no better or worse position in the hierarchy, they are just different. You are who you are.

Sustenance Driven Needs

The bottom of the pyramid represents the basic human needs, in terms of physical and psychological needs. At this stage of psychological development people are concerned with satisfying basic nutritional needs, achieving a physically safe environment and the ability to protect it. Once it is "satisfied" it is no longer a need. Maslow called these needs, and the next level of needs(Belonging), the Sustenance Driven Needs.

According to our research only 2% of senior managers are Sustenance Driven, which confirms other studies that have shown the decline of working age employees with traditional values. The decline of the Sustenance Driven segment means there are less people who will rigidly adhere to established rules and laws, typified by the this segment. Their need for order and stability has driven the values of many large corporations in the past, but in today's turbulent market environment these values, and the people that embody them, are less prized and rewarded.

Ask yourself
Think about your corporate culture for just a moment. What policies and procedures are designed to meet the demands of basic Safety needs? What kind of corporate policies can adversely affect these basic needs? Can the implementation of "rational" financial policies - i.e. streamlining, downsizing, rightsizing - affect the basic psychological orientation of individuals, local, societal and corporate cultures in "non-rational" ways?

The Belonging needs, the next level in the pyramid, also classified as Sustenance Driven needs, revolve around being accepted by peers and aspirational groups. It is a big jump to make psychologically, from being driven by largely physiological needs to a much more psychological orientation. A person can be safe, for the moment, and have sufficient resources to satisfy nutritional needs and a modicum of physical comfort; yet still be alienated from others around them. Human beings are social animals and this "belonging" is a basic factor in creating healthy human beings and the groups they live within.

In today's corporations, people have for the most part been able to satisfy these needs in their lives outside work. The early life experience of living within Sustenance Driven family environments usually gives individuals the social awareness and skills to satisfy this need. Because we spend so much time, actually and in "our minds" at work it can be seen that a person's values system can be positively, or negatively, affected by the environment, the policies, procedures, programmes and prospects of change at work.

Ask yourself
Seeing "work" as a social activity, what are some of the policies and procedures corporate cultures have evolved to satisfy these Belonging needs? What are some of the ways management practitioners can inadvertently negatively affect these "ways of being"? What are the sorts of things that can be done to satisfy this basic need?

Outer Directed

Once the needs for Safety and Belonging are met, individuals and cultures, societal and corporate, the dominant motivation becomes the need for esteem ; initially "from others" and eventually from the self, or "self esteem". This need for esteem from others initially leads individuals to break away from existing relationships and seek a wider and more intense "approval" of their identities. At this point individuals begin to think and behave much more autonomously than previously are less responsive to group norms and values, and more driven by inner needs to understand and live their lives in the way that is, self-defined, best for themselves. Many more women than men have moved into this values set and as a result the society has a very different dynamic than when most women had values associated with the Sustenance Driven group.

According to our research 40% of senior managers are Outer Directed. They tend to be the operators in organisations that get things done and will be strongly inclined to push the limits in pursuit of esteem from others and their own self esteem including profit, market share, high P/E's, huge ROI's, or any other business objective that will set them apart from the "herd" as "winners".

Ask yourself
Take just a moment to speculate how the world of work would be different today if women had a much more marked propensity to be Sustenance Driven, rather than vast numbers of them being Outer Directed in the G8 countries? This is an example of changes in individuals that causes changes in society and eventually impacts on the demands of suppliers of products and services.

Inner Directed

The Inner Directed people are driven by the need to know and understand the symmetry in their lives, why and how "one thing always leads to another", and trying to understand how they can become empowered through this process. They tend to have average to above average educational achievements and incomes, yet do not feel superior or even "better". They have accepted themselves for all their foibles and are beginning to understand that the more their lives become complex, which they have, the more it becomes simple, if they want it to be.

Policies and procedures that satisfy the needs of Sustenance Driven and Outer Directed managers are unlikely to satisfy the needs of the Inner Directed managers. Inner Directed executives "need" to have autonomy, it is not a choice. They "need" to understand the reasons of the setting of policy or the reason behind the procedure, it is not an option. Work fits into their lives, they don't fit into the "work life".

Many management practitioners are themselves Inner Directed (60% according to our research) and have changed the nature of the corporate agenda as they have moved into positions of responsibility within existing corporate structures. Rooted in their needs for novelty and change, they will want to move farther, faster, but potentially create dis-ease with other directors and executives with other values who are less comfortable with their 'too much too soon' approach.

Ask yourself
Can you think of 2 or 3 policies that are accepted as "business as usual" today, but would have been seen as "radical" or "unnecessary" 50 years ago? Can you identify them as Inner Directed driven?

To find out how your organisational performance can increase by understanding your culture's, team's and individual needs and values, contact EVS, the executive values specialists.