The burglar operates best under cover of dark, stealing your most precious valuables. So, nothing is more likely to deflect the burglar than a well-lit shop front.
For the last year or so a friend has been attempting to have a quasi-government agency look into a matter of some significance. For reasons that remain obscure the agency did nothing for six months. When the lack of attention to her matter was brought to the agency’s attention, the initial response was to apologise and a promise to deal with my friend. These promises came to nothing and my friend wrote and questioned the agency’s conduct.
What then happened? What should have happened? What do you think happened? In the correspondence I reviewed, a senior person in the agency (I’ll call him Mr Lemmel) approached my friend’s query from the viewpoint that to defend the agency’s honour was paramount. At first blush it might have appeared a good idea to Mr Lemmel. But as I reviewed the correspondence it became clear that, apparently backed into a corner (not him personally but the agency), Mr Lemmel resorted to lies. He twisted the story to heap the blame back on my friend for the agency’s lack of attention. Extraordinary I thought.
I quick Google search of Mr Lemmel revealed a senior public official with impressive pedigree in the public service. He must surely be someone with values that include Honesty (or let’s assume so anyway).
Why did Mr Lemmel breach his own values for the sake of the agency? Does Mr Lemmel believe that the agency’s reputation is more important than his own values?
Which led me to this: What integrity does an organisation have on its own? Is it separate from the leaders in the organisation? What culture must there exist for individual values to be violated in favour of the organisation.
For such a situation to exist, the curtains must be closed. No-one must look in and see what really goes on. To do so risks scrutiny and accountability. But in the stealth of darkness, as surely as the burglar operates, so too can the organisation steal our valuables – our most precious things – the Values we live and operate by.
And if it is the leader’s Values that have been stolen, the organisation has surely been robbed too.