“Managing by Values” (MBV): Innovative tools for successful micro behavioural conduct

women in leadership

By Anat Garti and Simon L. Dolan

“Values values on the wall, just do the business and forget them all” wrote Liran and Dolan (2016)1 as a title for one of many articles Dolan wrote with colleagues on working with values in organisations. The message is clear. In many cases, organisations do not consider values seriously. They adorn themselves with nice values and miss the core idea of values – managing the way we think, feel and behave. The objective of this short paper is to propose a series of ideas on how to render the MBV concept truly operational, so that the full potential of this revolutionary concept can be rendered instrumental. The tools and methodology have been developed and experienced in different settings and they really do not fail – they deliver excellent results.


How do values become a daily reality rather than an empty declaration on the wall? To this end, Dolan developed over the years several models that invite organisations and individuals to examine what is important to them and manage their life accordingly – Management by Values (MBV) with its core model of the 3Es Tri-axial focus (Dolan, Garcia & Richley, 2006; Dolan, 2011 and 2019; Dolan 2020)2. Over the years, and as a result of Garti’s work as an organisational consultant and as a couples and family therapist, several complementary tools were developed and will be described hereafter. In this paper four of these tools are described: (Tool # 1) Behaving Your Values, (Tool #2) The value of the “Values’ Pie”, (Tool #3) The value of the “Value Anchor”, and (Tool #4) The value of the “Value Message”. All these tools represent different components of the full MBV model. A particular set of applications was recently described in a short book addressed to parents and entitled “The parent as a value anchor” (Garti & Dolan, 2016)3 as well as Chapter 7 (in Spanish) in Dolan’s most recent book entitled: Más Coaching por valores (Dolan 2019)4.

Because the environment has changed so dramatically, managers have found it necessary to alter their practices in order to meet the needs of the times.

It all began with Dolan and colleagues’ description of the evolution of the school of thoughts in management due to the increasing complexity in the environments that organisations operate. Figure 1 summarises this evolution that started with MBI (Managing by Instructions) to MBO (Managing by Objectives) and finally to MBV (Managing by Values). The evolution is driven by the need to manage environmental and intra-organisational complexities5.


Because the environment has changed so dramatically, managers have found it necessary to alter their practices in order to meet the needs of the times. In the early 20th century, Management by Instruction (MBI) was considered to be an appropriate and adequate way to run an organisation. Change happened at a slower pace and therefore the way things were done in the past worked well enough to pass on to others. By the 1960s, change was accelerating to the point where more flexibility of action was required by managers. Thus, the introduction of Management by Objectives (MBO) enabled managers to agree on a direction and to choose their own strategy. As changes in the environment began to intensify (e.g., global competition, impact of technology, global economic crisis, etc.), MBO proved to be an insufficient strategy for managing in an interconnected and fast-paced VUCA world.

Values systems are the motivators that drive the behaviour of individuals, organisations and society, leading today to the emergence of Management by values (MBV).

In fact, organisations still relying on MBO often discover that their managers fail to meet their objectives. Frustration also increases when, despite their best efforts, they are unable to determine what went wrong. Many times, it is not that the goals were lofty or unrealistic; simply, many unforeseen changes occurred that were not and could not have been predicted. As a result of this growing complexity, scholars began to draw upon chaos and systems theories to better understand organisational behaviour. During this period, organisations came to be seen as complex and dynamic systems existing in a state of flux and interaction with their environment. Years of research have confirmed that the key to understanding the behaviour of such systems is to understand the corresponding values of these living systems. Values systems are the motivators that drive the behaviour of individuals, organisations and society, leading today to the emergence of Management by values (MBV).


Tool #1: Behaving Your Valuesor Translating values into everyday behaviour

Values are an abstract concept. For us, at the micro level, to be able to conduct our everyday life according to our values, require a methodology enabling to translate these abstract concepts into concrete behaviours. For this translation process we borrow the evolution from management by instruction (MBI) to management by objectives (MBO) and then to the present concept of managing by values (MBV) which truly helps to leap into the future, as it helps built an excellent compass in a VUCA world (Dolan, 2016, Dolan, 2020)6. When translating values into behaviour, we found it most useful to proceed in the opposite direction, which means from MBV to MBO and finally to MBI. It really works well at the micro level. In translating values into behaviour, one should dismantle the abstract value identified in the (MBV) phase, into concrete objectives (MBO) and finally into one or several contingent context specific behaviours (MBI). A best way to support this argument is to show an example. Here comes one:

Managing by Values (MBV) aims to help us create a set of values that direct us towards being more productive, more ethical and, all in all, more satisfied human being.

David a manager in a software company, wanted to live his life by the value of “respect” (MBV). He should ask himself: what does it mean to live by this value? What are the objectives (MBO – Managing by Objectives)? In this case, David dismantled the value of respect into two objectives: To live my life in a way that (1) makes sure that the other feels worthy, and (2) sees and takes into account the needs of the other. Now, each one of these objectives needs to be further dismantled into everyday behaviours, answering the question: “What should I do in order to meet these objectives?” As a true example, let’s use the case where David, had to give feedback to a colleague; thus he consciously makes the effort to give the feedback in a way that ensures that the colleague feels worthy and respectful after hearing the feedback. Another example is when David had to take a decision that affects his family. In that case, he considered the needs of his family before taking the decision. Table 1 depicts this example.

Another example, is taken from our book “The parent as a value anchor”. It is showing how to translate the value “being a good brother”.


If one of the values that the parent wants his/her child is to conduct himself by being a good brother (or the value of “good brotherhood”), he/she should translate the value into its objectives, or, in other words, into the meaning of good brotherhood for him/her. He/she can say that the meaning of “good brotherhood” means (1) protecting your brother when he is being bullied, (2) showing an interest in your brother, and (3) be generous to your brother. Each one of these objectives needs to be further divided into everyday behaviours. If one of the brothers, Dan, has an important test, the parent should encourage his brother to display an interest and tell him: “Dan had an important test today, he is your brother, and he would be very pleased if you display interest in him and ask him how did the test go”. Table 2 provides a synthesis for this example. It’s important to note that there are many behaviours/instructions that can meet one objective. When we write the behaviours/instructions (MBI), we write only some of them to demonstrate the way that one can meet this objective.

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About the Authors

 Dr. Anat Garti is a social psychologist, couple and family therapist, management consultant, and a coach. She is the chief psychologist of the Israel Values Center: www.values-center.co.il. Contact her: [email protected]

Dr. Simon L. Dolan is a researcher, author, management consultant and executive coach. A prolific author (over 74 books), the creator of the Leading, Managing and Coaching by Values school of thought. Recently he has created the Global Future of Work Foundation. He commutes between Barcelona (Spain) and Montreal (Canada). Visit his web site at www.simondolan.com and contact him: [email protected]

1. Liran, A., & Dolan, S. (2016). Values, Values on the wall, Just do business and forget them all: Wells Fargo, Volkswagen and others in the Hall. The European Business Review. October; and, Liran A., Dolan S.L., (2017) United Airlines, Artificial Intelligence, and Donald Trump: Reawakening Values in the Era of Fake Service, Fake Reality, and Fake News, The European Business Review June

2. Dolan S., Garcia S., and Richley (2006) B., Managing by values: A Guide to Living, Being Alive, and Making a Living in the XXI Century. Palgrave-MacMillan, London (U.K); and Dolan S.L., (2011). Coaching by Values: A Guide to Success in the Life of Business and the Business of Life. iUniverse. Bloomington, IND. Dolan, S.L., (2019) Más coaching por valores. Madrid, LID editorial. Dolan S.L., (2020) The secret of Coaching and Leading by Values: How to ensure allignment and proper realignment.  Routledge. (Forthcoming)
3. Garti, A and Dolan S. L. (2016). The parent as a value anchor. Gestion M.D.S. Inc.
4. Dolan S.L. (2019) Más coaching por valores, Madrid, LID editorial
5. Garcia S., Dolan  (1997) La dirección por valores. Madrid McGraw Hill; Dolan S.L. Garcia S., Auerbach A., (2003) “Understanding and Managing Chaos in Organizations”, Intrnational Journal of Management, Vol 20(1):23-35; Dolan, S.L. Garcia S., Richley B., (2006) Managing by Values: A corporate guide to living, being alive and making a living in the 21st century.  Palgrave Macmillan
6. Dolan S.L. (2016) Reflections on Leadership, Coaching and values: A framework for understanding the consequences of value congruence and incongruence in organizations and a call to enhance value alignment, The Study of Organizations and Human Resource Management Quarterly, July, Vol 2(1):56-74; Dolan S.L. (2019) Más coaching por  valores , Madrid LID editorial. The English version of the book will be available in the Fall of 2019.
7. Ariely D., (2013). The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 18, 2013)
8. If you wish to read more about Leadership by values , we recommend  www.leadershipbyvalues.com  or read Dolan (2018) Liderazgo, direccion y coaching por valores, Punto Rojo  (Amazon.com) or see the forthcoming book in English: Dolan S.L. (2020) The secret of Coaching and Leading by Values: How to ensure alignmenmt and proper realignment. Routledge (forthcoming).


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