The importance of shared values
Christopher et al. define shared values as ‘Those ideas of what is right and desirable (in corporate and/or individual behaviour) which are typical of the organization and common to most of its members’ (Christopher et al., 1991).
The presence of a set of shared values that permeate all levels of the organization is essential for the development of a culture conducive to RM. In particular these shared values must include a commitment to quality and customer service (Christopher et al., 1991).
Ethics and RM
Ethics can be critical to the implementation of RM programmes. Given the effect of notions of fairness on customer satisfaction, and therefore on loyalty, it is proposed that the shared values should also define the ethical boundaries within which the organization seeks to operate.
The mission statement
Purpose and value
This is the starting point for the creation of a RM-orientated culture. The mission statement should, in its most basic form, set out the long-term aim of the organization. Wilson and Gillighan (1997) suggest that the mission can be derived from the answer to two simple questions: what business are we in, and what business should we be in? Mission statements often go beyond this requirement, however, attempting to define the way in which the ultimate goal of the business will be achieved. Asda’s mission statement illustrates such an approach: ‘To be Britain’s best value fresh food and clothing superstore, by satisfying the weekly shopping needs of ordinary working people and their families who demand value’ (www.asda.co.uk, 2002).
The statement not only defines the organization’s ultimate goal (to be Britain’s best value food and clothing store), but also the target market (ordinary working people and their families) and the competitive positioning (value). The mission statement is supplemented with a statement of three values, intended to offer further guidance on the means by which the mission would be fulfilled:
• Respect for the individual
• Service to the customer
• Strive for excellence.
In a study of 83 Canadian and North American companies, Bart, Bontis and Tapgar (2001) found that those mission statements which specified organizational means as well as ends had a greater effect on the performance of the business. They concluded:
Through clearer specification of mission means – especially those that recognize an organization’s distinctive competence… – large diversified firms may finally have at their disposal the common denominator that enables them to create true ‘unity of purpose’
(Bart etal., 2001).
Bart et al. further concluded that the relationship between the contents of the mission and financial performance is complex and indirect. Company performance is closely associated with employee behavior, which is affected in turn by the degree of alignment between the stated mission and the organization’s systems. Whether, therefore, the mission statement promotes an integrated business, or is the product of one, is difficult to determine. It seems likely that both are true to some extent. On the one hand, a clear, meaningful mission statement provides guidance to employees, increasing their satisfaction, motivation and effectiveness. Conversely, a business that has clearly defined goals, value systems, and a strong cultural identity is likely both to perform well and to articulate a relevant and comprehensive mission statement. In any case, it will help the implementation of RM to develop a mission statement that reflects the values and goals of the organization, and the importance it places on relationships as a means to achieving these goals.
Implementing the mission statement
The mission statement is unlikely to have a significant effect on employee behavior without the commitment of staff throughout the organization, particularly senior management. Bart et al. (2001) found a strong correlation between employees’ perceptions of organizational commitment to the mission, and the alignment of their behavior with the mission contents.