Value Based Management is an approach to organizational leadership in work. It says that organizations should define what they consider value to be, then focus on maximizing it. Organizations usually define value as shareholder value.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Value Based Management

In work, Value Based Management is a strategic, organizational approach that focuses on maximizing value. Value is often taken to mean long-term shareholder value.

The core tenant of the approach is that organizations should maximize the value of their discounted future cash flows. This means adopting a longer term horizon than many organizations do and not simply focusing on profitability. In order to create value, organizations need to ensure they only invest in projects and products that provide a return on capital greater than the organization’s cost of capital.

By doing this, they can ensure that they will generate a positive return on capital, and in doing so ensure they can return dividends to investors. Of course, a by product of this strategic approach is that organizations create an incentive to redirect benefits or returns to shareholders from other stakeholders. Over the past half century this has manifest itself through things like the stagnation of working wages, the degrading of the environment and the erosion in supplier stability and fair treatment.

Returns on capital employed or equity are a key focus of value based management.

Want to improve as a leader or manager?

Check out our free, monthly, online seminars! Each one covers an important topic for leaders and managers in the modern workplace. As well as delivering our own sessions, we host great guest seminars too.

You can explore upcoming sessions and register for them via Eventbrite.

The Three Pillars of Value Based Management

For value based management to be effective in work, organizations need to become proficient in three core competencies.

Creating Value

Firstly, an organization’s strategy to be focused on creating value. Their decision making processes should focus on the long-term value added by activities (typically measured by discounted cash flows), and investment appraisals should consider the organization’s cost of capital. Decisions should be made to maximize value returned on capital. In some instances this focus leads to the reallocation of benefits from a wider stakeholder pool to shareholders.

Managing Value

Secondly, leaders should manage organizations to maximize value. The organizational culture and mindset should enable value maximization, governance structures should support value creation and tracking, leadership should focus on and communicate the value creation imperative and the organization should be changed to support it.

Values based management in work requires an understanding of values
How does your organization measure value?

Measuring Value

Thirdly, leaders should define ‘value” and be clear on how to measure if if they are to maximize it. They usually define it as shareholder value, but some organizations may define a different stakeholder value to maximize. Whatever definition of value an organization focuses on must be clearly defined. A strategy to measure it must also exist.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture and mindset are very important for Values Based Management. While embedding processes and governance approaches is a requirement, an organization’s ability to maximize value lie in the minutia of its culture, values and ways of working.

The required culture for successful use of Values Based Management is a values based mindset at all levels of the organization. To achieve this leaders should embed this thinking in their vision and mission statements and corporate values. They must also role-model it and communicate it effectively. They can do this in part through the setting of targets and objectives and aligning them to reward and recognition processes.

Organizational Objectives

Targets and objectives are key to Values Based Management. Therefore, each part of the organization needs to have specific value based objectives that are measurable and which it can influence. These objectives must be appropriate for the level of the organization that they’re being applied to and they must form the basis of the performance management process.

Values Based Management in work requires objectives and drivers

Responsible Business and Values Based Management In Work

Value based management can support or hinder an organizational ability to be a responsible business. If the values targeted are responsible, it can increase responsibility. If they are not, it can hinder responsibility.

You can learn more about responsible business and organizational impacts though our responsible business podcasts. This initial episode on responsible business might be a good place to start.

The World of Work Project View

Value Based Management in work really came to prominence in the second half of the 20th century. It’s now a very common way of running organizations, particularly larger one. Its focus on value, often reflected in share-price, makes it the de-facto way that most listed entities manage themselves. Many un-listed organizations also operate in this fashion, particularly any organizations looking to float or sell themselves.

The model talks about the importance of maximizing value, and literature explains that this is about more than short-term profitability. While this is true, it’s often hard for organizations to find the space to really focus on their long term value as many are slaves to capricious markets and the need to post managed, level, quarterly results in line with expectations. This means that many organizations end up struggling to balance the some-what conflicting requirements of short and long term shareholder value maximization.

Responsible Business

Values Based Management in work might not be responsible
Shareholders are not the only thing that matters.

We are pleased to see reference in some instances to the fact that value doesn’t always need to be reflected as return to shareholders. Unfortunately, we think that until very recently, most organizations focused almost exclusively on shareholder value maximization. It might be worth considering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a way to define real value for the future at a societal level.

We know that in some instances certain organizations will look to maximize value as defined by stakeholder benefit, whatever form that will happen to take. In the UK charitable organizations often use a “value for money” framework to assess and evidence the effectiveness of their programs of work at achieving their underlying purpose.

Overall we think that focusing on long-term value (of whatever definition) is an objective that most organizations should try to focus on. That said, we think that maximizing only shareholder value is a bad thing. We think that this approach has lead to negative outcomes in the world. Instead, we think that organizations should work towards creating long term value for a mix of their stakeholders.

Our Podcast

Our Podcast is a great way to learn more about hundreds of fascinating topics from around the world of work.

There, as ever, is a lot of original work behind this post. Peter Drucker may have originated the concept of value based management. Alfred Rappaport certainly progressed it. However, it was Jim McTaggart who names it when he used the term in his 1994 book: “The Value Imperative”.


We’re a small organization who know we make mistakes and want to improve them. Please contact us with any feedback you have on this post. We’ll usually reply within 72 hours.