Before Richard Barrett conducts a workshop, he sends out three simple questionnaires. On the first one, participants pick from a long list of words the 10 that best describe their personal value system. The second questionnaire features a list of words — creative, profitable, innovative, greedy, manipulative — that could be used to describe how an organization operates; participants circle the 10 that best describe their organization's culture. Finally, they choose from a third list the 10 words that describe their dream organization.
Barrett and his partner, Joan Shafer, analyze the responses and plot them onto a graph. Borrowing from Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human motivation, Barrett and Shafer slice the graph into seven levels of corporate consciousness: survival, relationship, self-esteem, transformation, organization, community, and society. The results, when presented visually, become instantly recognizable: It's impossible to miss how an organization's actual behavior differs from or hews to the ideal, as imagined by the people who work there.
Values in Profile
Barrett and Shafer analyze the surveys and develop scores that rank how a company is doing at all levels. The result: numerical profiles, as objective and exacting as a profit-and-loss statement, that form a balance sheet reflecting sustainability and long-term survival. The final index measures a company's consciousness on three levels: the common good, organizational transformation, and self-interest. It goes beyond the bottom line, beyond a company's quarterly results, and answers a long-term question: To what extent is the organization thinking about its future and about the larger implications of its behavior?
Around these core measurements, Barrett has built a suite of tools: a corporate-values audit, an employee-values assessment, a leadership-values assessment, a questionnaire for screening potential new hires, and a gauge for measuring the compatibility of two companies on the verge of a merger. All the work he does with an organization results in a final pie-chart, which he calls the Balanced Needs Scorecard. An extension of work by Robert Kaplan, of the Harvard Business School, and David Norton, of Renaissance Solutions Inc., the scorecard ranks the various categories in which a company can expend its energy: social contributions, client and supplier relationships, corporate fitness, corporate survival, corporate culture, and corporate evolution. At a glance, the scorecard indicates where a company is putting too much or too little emphasis.
Measures of Success
Although Barrett's system has yet to be used at many companies, his existing clients are pleased with the results. Kris Arnzen, 49, a managing partner at Resonate Inc., a Cincinnati-based firm that directs the assets of corporations and wealthy families toward socially responsible organizations, sees in Barrett's system a useful navigational tool. "Our core mission is to ask our clients how they want to help change the world," she says. "We have 16 people here, and we want the right values to govern the way we treat them as well. Barrett's system offers us a way to measure and promote these values."
At Turner-Dale Associates, a small firm located near San Francisco that manages pension-fund investments, cofounder Wayne Turner, 55, has been using Barrett's tools for about a year. "Our financial success has been directly attributable to our focus on basic principles and values," he says. "We focus on integrity, on responsibility, and on transparent ethical criteria. Richard has put together an excellent packet that helps people discover what their values are and how to integrate them into their corporate vision and management system."
A version of this article appeared in the August 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.