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Posted by Sarah Brown on 24 Aug '18

Can you guess VW’s values from the way they act?

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Yesterday as I read the newspaper (the I) I was amazed to read a headline:

“Farmers accuse Volkswagen of triggering drought with ‘hail cannons’”

It sounded like something out of science fiction, Volkswagen use sound waves generated by the “cannon” to convert hail to water but farmers say they destroy the clouds and they haven’t had any rain since May and have lost 5,000 acres of crops worth almost £3million. The company started doing it because they say hailstorms had wrecked new cars parked outside causing £15.8m in damage.

Now I don’t know the truth of it but linked back to the emissions scandal for VW I thought I’d actually look at their values to see if the environment is one of them. Well it isn’t but I was impressed to find that they have worked with 11,000 employees to create six values and have got staff to bring them to life with words and quotes, all this is in their company staff magazine.

It is part of developing a new corporate culture through its “cultural heritage” programme as part of the TRANSFORM 2025+ strategy.

The VW values are:

  • Together
  • Courageous
  • Customer-oriented
  • Efficient
  • Mindful
  • Genuine

Someone from the Puebla plant, which employs 15,000 the largest number outside Germany, where the cannon is being used is actually quoted explaining genuine

“To me, acting ‘genuinely’ implies being transparent, speaking the truth, in line with our principles and values. In short: be consistent, say what you think, and do as you say.”

Manuela Wisser, Governance, Risk and Compliance VW Puebla, Mexico.

VW and the environment

There is mention of nature under mindful – towards people, nature, society trustworthy. Looking further I found there are 12 big articles on the environment in their staff newsletters.

I think the environment is important to VW, they claim on their website “All of our vehicles are designed with the environment in mind” but still they have addressed an environmental issue in Mexico in a way which from my cursory research on the internet seems unproven. I can see why they may be surprised to get complaints from farmers as the articles, which are few, are mainly about farmers using the ‘cannons’ to protect their crops from hail.

Interestingly now VW have agreed to take the Cannons off their automatic setting and invest in protective mesh to keep out the hailstones.  Did their values give any help when deciding to use cannon rather than mesh?

I can’t see that they did, and unless values clearly translate into behaviour and give a structure for making choices and particularly expensive decisions like how to cope with hailstorms then any organisation will struggle to have a corporate culture that ‘works’ i.e. one that creates an environment where there is consistency and people are confident about what are the best decisions to make.

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When we work with companies using our Values into Behaviours maximiser© it is not easy working through the seven steps but it allows for thinking through the difficult issues and developing priorities including most importantly what is the most important value.

Start by ranking your values

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