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Jan 27

How We Do What We Do Matters

Posted on January 27, 2020 at 2:47 PM by Melinda Mayo

For the past few months the Leadership Team—that is, the City Manager’s Office and Department Directors—have been going through a process to identify and validate our organizational values.  The intent of this effort is to identify a set of core values we as an organization believe in and genuinely honor.  As a trainer shared with us at a recent workshop, we must be certain our values are more than a poster hanging on the wall.

Vision and Mission

The City Council has an adopted Vision Statement contained in their Strategic Plan, which casts what they believe to be the future the residents of Roanoke expect them to work toward.  Since my arrival two and a half years ago, I have promoted what I believe to be a very straightforward mission for the organization to accompany this vision:  We help make people’s lives better through the delivery of public services.  Together, the vision and mission serve as the “what” and “why” statements for our organization.  Values serve as the “how” statement and, combined with our defined strategies, are what makes the way we do the people’s business our own, reflecting the unique opportunities and challenges present in our community.


As an organization, we have claimed an established set of Core Values for many years.  I wanted us to spend some time testing whether what we claim truly are our values.  Through the process thus far, the Leadership has identified six values they believe represent how we do what we do.  These draft values are:

Integrity and Honesty
Diversity and Inclusion
Respect for Others
Listening and Communication
Continuous Improvement

Further, the Leadership has drafted statements to clarify what behaviors reinforce these values. In other words what do we really mean when we say we that we deliver our services in a manner that “Respects Others”?  Currently, these behavior statements are being discussed with the middle managers and supervisors in the organization, and eventually will be further tested with all employees.  The process of review by managers and supervisors has been illuminating. Seeing where perhaps there may be a difference in the nuances of what each of these values actually means is critical if we as an organization are to truly “own” what we end up with.

For What Purpose

Why does any of this matter?  This is a fair question to ask.  After all, how is picking up the garbage or making certain the grass in our parks is mowed regularly, affected by any of this?  I truly believe it makes all the difference.  An organization that views its mission as one that betters people’s lives through its actions will be more inclusive, deliberate, and thoughtful in the delivery of those services.  For example, an organization that genuinely values continuous improvement will always be seeking better, more effective and efficient ways to pick up that garbage.  An organization that genuinely values accountability will do what it has committed to doing. If we say our parks will be mowed on a regular schedule, then we should be held accountable for doing so.

We are able to make a difference in people’s lives because that is what we set out to do and because those same people have entrusted us with their tax dollars.  We owe them and ourselves nothing less than our best, and I believe our best is defined most effectively by a set of values we have all agreed to honor!

--Bob Cowell


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