RE: Mission and value statements: How to create one that has meaning
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 10:02:02 -0700 (MST)
Kay Argyle wrote a long post about the wide variety of values present within
a group. There of course is the problem, there are lots of  individual
values. The trick is find if there are any which everyone holds. One of the
ways to do this is to define values in terms of actions. This really
clarifies the meanings of words. So if a value stated is: Environmentally
Friendly, the process is to create a list of ACTIONS which demonstrate this.
This can be a long list and range from recycle pop cans to not owning a car.
Then remake the list of the actions and give people a chance to mark the
actions that THEY ARE NOT WILLING TO DO.  So if I am not willing to live
without a car I would put my initial, or name, by that action. When everyone
is done you evaluate the list.

1. Things that have no initials are things everyone is willing to do. Hence
it is part of the definition of the value, Environmentally friendly. At this
time, for this group. So if nobody initials the action of recycle
newspapers, then everyone is willing to do this and it is a legit part of
what environmentally friendly means.

2. Things that have one or two initials on them, are topics to further
process. This is where you engage and ask why won't you do this? So Rob, how
come you are not willing to recycle your newspapers? Often there is some
caveat, which once met, can change an I won't to an I will.

3. Things that have lots of initials on them are obviously not part of the
definition of the value for the group, which does not mean that individuals
still can't do them but its unreasonable to ask everyone to.

I have done this process with groups and it took a whole weekend, two 6 hour
sessions to complete the lists and mark them. I have heard of groups that
did this a little at a time, one value per meeting, and then made the final
action lists and did the marking between meetings as survey work to get all
the members participation. This takes longer, but takes only a little time
each meeting.

When you are done, you have a concrete defined list of values which can be
easily and clearly understood and evaluated. Actions either happen or they
don't. You recycle your pop cans or you don't.  This concreteness seems to
really help folks in values diverse communities such as cohousing. The big
trick to do this of course is to make sure you can define an action clear
enough so that it is observable. Feelings can not usually be listed as
actions and you might need to figure out a different way to make them part
of this process.

Rob Sandelin

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