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The Values Deficit

Reconciling the need for financial value with social values that drive reputation

Creating value is the foundation stone of all business – to make or grow something, to provide a service, to improve daily life.

This is the drive that results in surplus that can be traded and that has resulted in the interdependent global market in which we live.

But there is more to what is ascribed a value. To paraphrase the Bible, “man does not live by bread alone”. We seek community, family, security and, for some, spiritual certainty and fulfilment. To achieve those ends in a civilised society we develop a set of beliefs, behaviours and ethics; a guide to our actions. We give those actions value, typically based on what we perceive the results to be either good or bad.

Whilst there may be some cultural relativity, the core social values that are supposed to guide most of us are fairly common. Honesty, respect, tolerance and fairness are seen as essential social values. Their importance is attested to by the distress and anger caused when any, or a combination of those values are demonstrably absent in the actions of others. That is why we characterise such behaviour as criminal and seek to punish it and stamp it out.

The modern global village is made up of individuals, states and corporations. In the developed world we expect the same social values to drive ethical and fair behaviour by all. We probably hold the non-individual actors (i.e. governments, corporations et al) to a higher standard, particularly given the disproportionate power they wield. Amongst those who state that with great power comes great responsibility are Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Spiderman.

That is where companies can find themselves in major trouble. In the drive to create monetary value, shareholder value and personal value for executives, they may forget the imperative to fit within the prevailing social values. That is, there is a Values Deficit TM. When that happens corporate reputation can, and usually is, destroyed.

The 24-hour news cycle means that corporate misbehaviour will quickly gain broad exposure and, sadly, there is no shortage of examples. The result is that not only are organisations held to a higher standard, but the general disposition of most of the community towards them is inherently cynical.

To gain and maintain trust, companies must align their values to community expectation and not only live those values, but also be seen to live them. When that does not happen we regularly hear complaints about a negative and poisonous corporate culture. Complaints that can justify the business equivalent of a lynching, or, at the very least, a pelting with rotten fruit.

Not aligning with expected social values, yet still seeking to profit from the community that shares them, is the Values Deficit TM that can turn any business into a market pariah.

Any organisation that does not do a regular check of its values, the culture those create and assess if its actions and messages convey the desired values, runs a serious risk of drifting into a Values Deficit TM. The very nature of fast-paced competition can hasten that drift and create damage to reputation before it is even realised.

RMKA are highly experienced in working with organisations to assess expressed and lived values and to communicate values alignment with the communities and stakeholders that support any organisation’s licence to operate.

It is a ‘customer-centric’ service delivery; i.e. ‘providing the best possible customer experience (satisfaction) utilising the most efficient delivery model’. This means not only new technologies, but also a new approach to personal communication.

Modern Innovative government is committed to addressing this because of the rising expectations of citizens, increasing fiscal pressures and delivering technologies that enable these new ways of information management and communication. 

This trend is not only what is expected of government. Consumers are also pushing for it from the private sector. 

The approach to meeting this change requires planned communication practices and creative approaches to ‘connect with’ and ‘serve’ citizens. 

Specifically, citizens are seeking access to information that is delivered in the simplest, most user-friendly and efficient way. For many, this means the options to receive information that is easily accessible, accurate, timely and digital or personal in nature, depending on their individual circumstances. 
 
This ‘push’ also coincides with the evolving nature of communication, especially the rapid adoption of internet enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets. 

Unfortunately, many government departments and companies do not have the digital or stakeholder engagement expertise to champion change across their operations to realise the benefits of digital stakeholder communication.

ICG is at the forefront of these changes in communication and service delivery trends. 
We bring this expertise and ‘communication model’ to governments, business and the philanthropic sectors to ‘create change’ to deliver ambitious programs to engage citizens, customers and other stakeholders and cement their positions as leaders in their areas of expertise and operation.

The digital transformation of stakeholder engagement

Communication is transitioning to a ‘new era’ in service delivery efficiency and effectiveness.

It is a ‘customer-centric’ service delivery; i.e. ‘providing the best possible customer experience (satisfaction) utilising the most efficient delivery model’. This means not only new technologies, but also a new approach to personal communication.

Modern Innovative government is committed to addressing this because of the rising expectations of citizens, increasing fiscal pressures and delivering technologies that enable these new ways of information management and communication.

This trend is not only what is expected of government. Consumers are also pushing for it from the private sector.

The approach to meeting this change requires planned communication practices and creative approaches to ‘connect with’ and ‘serve’ citizens.

Specifically, citizens are seeking access to information that is delivered in the simplest, most user-friendly and efficient way. For many, this means the options to receive information that is easily accessible, accurate, timely and digital or personal in nature, depending on their individual circumstances.

This ‘push’ also coincides with the evolving nature of communication, especially the rapid adoption of internet enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Unfortunately, many government departments and companies do not have the digital or stakeholder engagement expertise to champion change across their operations to realise the benefits of digital stakeholder communication.

RMKA is at the forefront of these changes in communication and service delivery trends.

We bring this expertise and ‘communication model’ to governments, business and the philanthropic sectors to ‘create change’ to deliver ambitious programs to engage citizens, customers and other stakeholders and cement their positions as leaders in their areas of expertise and operation.

MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 11 2014: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a meeting with the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko in Melbourne

Tony Abbott: Architect of his own Demise

It is impossible not to feel for Tony Abbott after the events of Monday this week. There is no doubt that he is a well-intentioned man with, what he considered to be, the nation’s best interests at heart.

It must be acknowledged how devastatingly effective he was as an Opposition Leader; albeit using his core strengths (dogged determination, a boxing blue, and, yes, three word slogans) to lower the tone of Parliament, and the approach to national politics in general. In this endeavour he had many willing co-conspirators from both sides of the Chamber and beyond.

During that period one could argue that he effectively took down three Prime Ministers (Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd – twice), no easy task. What no one recognised during what appeared to be his ‘Howitzer’ phase was that he was also drawing up the plans for his own downfall.

He wasn’t a mere draftsman; he was an architect.

He demonstrated how to exploit a broken promise with a zeal unlikely seen anywhere outside a relationship on the rocks. It would be almost impossible to calculate the number of times a high-vis Abbott reminded us about the carbon tax that should never have been.

He was a pathfinder, illuminating the way for future Oppositions.

That’s what makes the Budget of 2014 so mystifying.

A litany of broken promises that drained the pool of credibility, which had been partially filled during the long years he had led the Opposition (granted, it was not terribly deep).

Compounded by the perception that it was highly inequitable, that Budget triggered a response from our collective reptilian brain that fairness was still an Australian trait. Assault fairness – insult the nation.

The sales job was carried out via the echo chamber. Yell an idea in; hear a slogan echoed back. It worked, but only on those doing the yelling. No one had considered informing the electorate of the need for action, let alone contemplating taking it along for the ride.

The appalling politics and communication of Budget 2014 made our former PM (and his fledgling government) an easy target; transforming him from a man of whom the nation was wary but willing to give a go; to another promise-breaking, untrustworthy, administratively inept leader.

Tony Abbott had morphed into what he had previously destroyed.

It is this aspect that generates an increased level of empathy in me for how Mr Abbott must be feeling today. The galling knowledge that in attempting to emulate one of his political heroes, that he had executed his plan so poorly he found himself at the trailhead of destruction. Ironically, he was the cartographer responsible for the map that identified his position so precisely.

It is impossible to gloss over the fact that every time he managed to give his hunters the slip, he, or one of his coterie would send up a flare alerting them to his whereabouts. From Sir Philip, to Bronwyn, to Peter Dutton’s trés hilarious joke – he was Canberra’s Tantalus, almost reaching his goal but not quite being able to reach it.

I hope that history remembers former Prime Minister Abbott with more than just a PutYourOnionsOut hash tag. He deserves better than that.

I also hope that the team of Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop go forward to deliver on their commitment of communicating with the nation, as opposed to treating us as mere tax-paying minions. After all, their decisions will likely have fairly substantial impacts on the lives of us tax-paying minions.

Finally, there’s a chance that the tenor of our national debate will improve and that we will witness some non-poll/focus group driven leadership and policy development.

Who knows, good government might have even started yesterday.

Wild west Cowboy town with wagon in foreground.

Circling the wagons…

Circling the wagons is fast becoming the common idiom for governments and corporations today.

It means that you stop communicating with people who don’t think the same way as you. You want to avoid their ideas.

In business, it is often an indication that you are losing your competitive edge and need to re-think your engagement strategies. This thinking shares the common theme of providing a defense from circumstances that can seem overwhelming when, in reality, it is not the case.

Adopting this head-in-the-sand approach sees governments and companies becoming paralysed in engaging with stakeholders and in taking a leadership role in a debate.

Communities throughout the world are now seeking leadership and forward thinking on issues and want to be engaged in the debate. However, governments, in particular, are steeped in the ‘old thinking’ of ‘testing the water’ with small sections of the community before putting leadership ideas to the broader community.

The Australian newspaper recently highlighted the issue when business, unions and community groups called on the federal government to give the nation ‘real reform’, rather than engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ of not doing anything. Former Treasurer Peer Costello also highlighted the issue in the Herald Sun (Read here).

The federal government should have a stakeholder engagement strategy in place to engage and lead the community on the reform agenda and highlight how it will be achieved.

Political strategists will ague that it is not prudent to telegraph desired outcomes too far in advance. This thinking highlights the weakness in the communication strategy and understanding of the stakeholders.

Strong stakeholder engagement strategies allow you to adopt sound ideas, promote them and use them to strengthen the foundations of your agenda.

The frustrations of the current ‘circling the wagons’ approach defy its origins. In reality, the idiom was not about protection against attacks (by local Native Americans or outlaw gangs), but protection of livestock from wandering off.

If your stakeholder engagement strategy allows your ideas or agenda to ‘wander off’, those protecting it need to demonstrate there is no substitute for leadership. The adoption of sound stakeholder engagement strategies not only protects proposals (i.e. the livestock), but also adds to their value and appeal.