Value Statements - A Bedrock Foundation for an Organizational Constitution

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By Carl Ray Austerman

The United States Constitution provided a framework that enabled Americans to face a depression and several World Wars. Value statements provide a similar organizational constitutional framework (Amuso and Giblin, 1997). What an organization stands for, what it believes in, and what guides its behavior and decision-making are concisely articulated in its value statements (Walter, 1995). Value statements delineate an organization's view point on issues by driving a stake in the ground (Strickland and Thompson, 1996), stipulating how it will handle its business affairs (Welch, 1997).

The problem this research project addressed was the fact that the Glendale Fire Department (GFD), in its 87-year history, has never developed written value statements to concisely expound on the actual values of the organization. The purpose of this research was to develop value statements for each of the 13 actual values that were determined by an organizational values audit conducted in 1998. A literature review, survey, and focus group were the primary procedures utilized in the study that employed action and evaluative research methodologies to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are value statements?
  2. What is the impact of value statements on an organization?
  3. What methodologies did similarly sized and geographically adjacent fire departments utilize to develop organizational value statements?

The results of this study produced value statements for each of the 13 values that GFD members indicated, in a values audit in 1998, were being measured up to and encouraged within the organization.

Recommendations to institutionalize value statements into the organization's culture include consolidating them into a brochure and mailing to each organizational member, incorporating value statements into the GFD's performance appraisal system to provide clarity on behavioral dimensions, including value statements in company and chief officer leadership classes, and utilizing value statements as a firefighter recruitment tool.