Value Alignment for Projects

I’d like to add some thoughts to this bit from Value Alignment 2011:

“Teams I have coached in the past have found great success in assigning values as the steering for specific projects.”

[Reference: It was within the Take 5 shared on how to start a Value of the Month program for your work team.]

As you read this post, do so within the following framework, keeping our vocabulary in mind:

  • Value Immersion — is about choosing the Value Your Month to Value Your Life program for your workplace team
  • Value Steering — is about using values to shape and guide specific project work
  • Both fall under the Managing with Aloha Key Concept of Value Alignment [Key 3]

First, Value Immersion

The most effective ‘Value Your Month to Value Your Life’ programs I’ve seen in workplaces, succeed because they go for value immersion. For example, if Kuleana is the value for the month, they look at everything happening during that month through the lens of Kuleana-colored glasses, with the intention of tweaking processes for more value alignment. People put their hand up to work on what comes up. Bosses give the green light to stretch inter-departmentally, encouraging those conversations, and knowing a welcome mat will be in place because the value has been adopted everywhere, even if temporarily.

“Everything happening” means you’re nalu-ing it: You’re going with the flow as events and activities naturally happen because of past habit or current developments, and what you’re “tweaking” is largely your responses to all those things inclusively. As you do so, you tackle everything that Kuleana affects (returning to our example) as the value of responsibility and accountability. For instance Kuleana is a tremendous help as criteria, filter, and priority-sorter when selected during times of company change, because responsibility is very much like motivation: it’s personal and self-driven.

What Value Immersion tackles best is apathy and complacency, for it uncovers the three workplace sins of auto-pilot, lies of omission, and tacit approval.

Stop for a moment here, and glance over your calendar for the coming week: Make this personally relevant.
Can you imagine the difference, if you deliberately took the time to ask yourself, “What about Kuleana? How would it affect this conversation?” …or meeting, or appointment, or new initiative… for every single thing now on your calendar.
Now what if everyone you worked with asked the same question at the same time? — and what if they reminded you when you forgot?

Your Projects, and Value Steering

Project work in Managing with Aloha is a little bit different than Value Immersion. In short, you’re framing issues, then pushing further into them and trying to do so completely. Project work should also be more creative and growth-inducing than tackling complacency and simply stirring the pot: Energies should be ramped up with idea generation and experimentation. You’re opting for Value Steering.

  • With Value Immersion, nothing is sacred, and everyone in the company adopts the value of the month, not just a project team (or focus group): You go All In so you can see how that value is currently interpreted, and how it plays out in different departments and divisions. You may even extend your reach to the customer. Thus all in-progress projects for the month seek the chosen value’s goodness in some way too.
  • However each project may initially have begun with different goals or expectations, and so the Value Immersion becomes an additional variable which will likely focus on individual behaviors as the project proceeds; it is not steering the project. In effect, the value will mostly tackle the how. As explained above, it will also focus on connections both inside and outside the project team.
  • In contrast, Value Steering for projects aligns the results of that project with the value; concentration is primarily focused on the what and why first, knowing that the how can be expected to follow once the project exploration and experimentation is over. The value you have chosen as your steersman is a big influencer, with pilot projects being the safest place that can happen.
  • Thus projects with Value Steering goes much further; the team works “short and deep” wanting to cover all their possibilities. From the very beginning, the project expectations are rooted in that particular value; that’s why we call it “value steering” versus “value immersion.”
  • A key advantage of both Value Immersion and Value Steering is that decisions get made much quicker, and with greater clarity because criteria parameters have selectively, purposely been narrowed. However this is also where your leadership makes your influence known (assuming you have led the charge to select the value in the first place.) The caveat therefore, is to choose the value carefully (and yes, deliberately.)

Perhaps most important, is the authorship shift when you employ Value Steering in projects: You have led (creating the energy resource), but you’ve effectively delegated too: The project team does the managing (executing = channeling the energy).

Granite Creek Park:  School District Art Project

Along the way (in both value immersion and value steering), so much will be rooted in the personal link to the value chosen.

Let’s look at Kuleana again, the value of responsibility and accountability: The responsibility a person has accepted for something is strongest when fulfilling the obligation connected to it satisfies their personal values. They take ownership for it easily, because they feel emotionally connected to it. When you are a responsible, loving parent, no one has to tell you to accept responsibility for your kids. When you love your job, no one has to tell you to take responsibility for doing it well.

Value immersion can start this process, and the very savvy Alaka‘i Manager will then assemble future project teams with those who feel the strongest connection to the value concerned: No convincing is needed, for they want to be involved, feeling emotionally invested in it.

Some wrap-up help on logistics

This post has already been longer than I intended it to be, but I don’t want it to be incomplete for you either. So here are some of my lessons learned on a) the Take 5 I had shared in Value Alignment 2011, and b) in timing when you use Value Steering for your Projects.

The Take 5 is largely the same, but in the project context we’ve just discussed:

  1. Choose the value carefully. Consider using the MWA values so you can open up thinking with a new Language of Intention [MWA Key 5]. Since my book dedicates a chapter per value it is really easy to distribute some reading for background.
  2. Vitally important to make your intentions clear. If you felt it necessary to get the blessing of some higher-up on the project, ask them to attend your kick-off meeting and voice their support in visionary terms (the why.) Concentrate on just the project scope (short and deep) and on expectations voiced with the value chosen.
  3. Third was “stick with it and go the distance.” You’ve done project work before, and you know the importance of this.
  4. Fourth was about communication. You’ll find more help in MWA in chapters 8 (Lōkahi) and 9 (Kākou) with this — not as more “value steering,” stick with just 1 value per project — but in regard to teams and communication, and for you as the project leader or facilitator.
  5. The offer in 5 still stands: Reach out to me, or to others in our Ho‘ohana Community anytime you have questions or need help — or you may want to reach outside the project team, but still inside the organization.

About timing. I’ve found that 6 weeks is more than enough time to dedicate to a project, even in large organizations; you don’t want to drag it out.

Week 1 – Select your project team, define scope clearly and set your expectations, commit to a specific calendar and make initial assignments.
[e.g. The Alaka‘i Manager is in start-up mode, coaching beginning well.]
Week 2 and 3 – The work of the project itself.
Week 4 – Pilot test-run (i.e. Execution without risk: final decisions haven’t been made yet.)
Week 5 – Evaluate the pilot and adjust. What will it take to Finish Well, with subsequent agreements?
Week 6 – Final decisions and business direction. Wow! campaign to get everyone on board.

If you can make this shorter, do. We never go beyond 4 weeks in my business entities, and we start by aiming for 2 weeks. The two parts you want to be generous with, are with giving enough time for team authorship (projects suck when all the team really does is carry out the boss’s orders) and with your communications campaign to get everyone excited and on board.

Have I got you thinking about your upcoming projects now? Great! If you have more reading time (or want to come back to this) here is some related reading from the archives:

  1. Where Planning Ends and Projects Begin
  2. Start a WOW! Project at Work
  3. Leading encourages Making. Embrace the Mess


  1. Rosa Say says

    Here’s a post I found in my RSS reader via Shutter Sisters that takes a look at longer, more personal projects seized with that “It’s a New Year!” anticipation: I loved the feeling of confidence, and “I’m not alone!” it gave me, and you may too:

    A day in the life of 365 by Meredith Winn
    Take a look at her Flickr stream of 365 too (she You-Tubed it here.)