Valuable lessons on shared values

- April 2021
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Less than three days. 60 hours was all it took for the biggest upheaval in ‘the world game’ to implode. And with it came valuable lessons on shared values, some very relevant for organisations in the For-Purpose sector.

European football, the largest market in the biggest global sport was set to be turned on its head. The proposal was for 12 of the largest, most high profile and globally supported clubs from three leagues to break away and establish a new, exclusive and protected competition. But with an almost universal backlash from fans, sponsors and supporters, the clubs quickly backed away from the proposal. The revolution barely lasted beyond a weekend.

While football and professional sports might be big business these days, at their core, they are in the business of winning over hearts and minds. Without the passion and fervour of fans, sporting organisations will generally not find the resources and financial support to remain competitive and viable. Value alignment is essential to this relationship and in the case of the Super League, the clubs involved clearly took their eye off the ball and betrayed that values alignment.

For-Purpose organisations sit within a similar framework, where their ongoing capacity is often predicated on a values alignment with their communities and supporters. The financial and community support of funders, donors, clients and volunteers is driven by common purpose. As organisations evolve, respond to new needs, or grow their capacity, ensuring their values are aligned with their supporters is essential to success. In this way, bringing supporters along for the ride, rather than overwhelming them with sudden change is critical. Engagement and communication will be beneficial in bringing all parties on the journey together.

Unlike sporting competitions which, as the name implies, rely on strong competition to maintain the interest of participants and supporters, organisations operating within the For-Purpose spectrum find their purpose in meeting the needs of their communities. Regardless, competitive situations still inevitably arise, as organisations find themselves jostling for funds, resources and clients. Government policy tending towards the marketisation of community services through competitive tendering and other structures sees organisations facing off against each other.

Competition in the sector has its counterpoint in collaboration. Working with, rather than against organisations to achieve common objectives offers many opportunities for organisations to improve their capacity and reach. As Camilla Rowland, Chair of Playgroup Australia, reflected at Parbery’s recent For-Purpose seminar, the increasing incidence of commissioning for outcomes strategies employed by governments and funding bodies means collaboration makes the most sense for many organisations. The critical element in this case is the outcomes for individuals, requiring organisations to be reactive, responsive and to pool resources and capabilities.

Again, values alignment is a crucial element of For-Purpose organisation governance, as effective collaboration is only possible through mutually agreed value principles. It is incumbent on boards to consider values alignment when forming partnerships to ensure that collaborative ventures don’t undermine what is best for the organisation and its purpose.

The clubs involved in the Super League proposal lost sight of their core purpose and their values alignment with their communities. They set out on a new course without bringing their partners and supporters along with them and lost sight of what they stood for. Working together to achieve great outcomes is achievable but maintaining focus on the organisation’s purpose and values alignment with stakeholders is vital. As For-Purpose organisations are faced with the challenges of competition and collaboration, keeping this in mind is fundamental to their sustainability.

Brendan Egan is a Senior Manager at Parbery and has more than 14 years experience as a senior executive in the For-Purpose sector. 

Image by Pete from Pixabay