It would be a reasonable assumption to expect that the operating cultures of our most prominent Hawaiian institutions would be driven by Hawaiian values. That fundamental to a Hawaiian institution would be a Hawaiian values-based management system that shaped the behavior of the work force in a way that defined that institution as being uniquely Hawaiian. Our institutions are the standard-bearers that define, for the larger community, who we are and what we stand for. Should not each institution deliberately adopt a set of Hawaiian values and incorporate them into their operating culture as fundamental to their governance and administration?
But auwē, it seems that most Hawaiian organizations are conflicted and challenged by the profound and difficult task of incorporating Hawaiian values into their operating culture for perhaps a number of reasons. One reason might be they don’t equate Hawaiian values as an important management tool relevant to efficient and high-quality production systems. Another might be they struggle with how to design a values-driven operating culture in ways that the return on investment can be measured. Or, it could be because most of us have been so well-indoctrinated into mainstream mainland workplace culture it’s just too big a stretch to change the paradigm. It’s more familiar and easier to simply keep perpetuating the sometimes draconian plantation-like workplace systems of those who colonized us. Or, perhaps they don’t think about it at all. My observation is that some of our institutions do make an effort to incorporate Hawaiian values in their mission statements and employee handbooks and have posters made to hang in the coffee room. It’s a cosmetic approach that is well-meaning but only skin-deep.
A Hawaiian institution should be a joyful place to work. It should be a place we go to celebrate the work we do on behalf of the Hawaiian people. The fact is that a well-managed Hawaiian values-driven operating system will outstrip any other production system in quality of service or product. It empowers and inspires employees. It makes them proud of what they do and how they do it. It produces far less conflict, more predictable behavior, and strengthens relationships. Everyone, Hawaiian or not, is treated equally and with respect. It unifies the organization in profound ways and makes going to work feel like a privilege and an honor.
If I have piqued even a little bit of your interest, here’s a simple set of Hawaiian values to get started.
All Hawaiian words have more than one meaning and the context for a word’s use determines the specific interpretation. Also, many words with the same spelling can have very different meanings particularly when diacritical marks, which function like an alphabet, are used in spelling the word.
The definitions used here are intended for application in a workplace environment as it might contribute and strengthen workforce relationships.
Aloha is the most intimate of all greetings. The unconditional extension of trust and friendship to include strangers. Taking responsibility for those to whom aloha is extended insuring their safety, well-being, and peace of mind. Aloha also is extended to places and the physical environment implying stewardship obligations as an expression of caring for the condition of such places.
Akahai is to be unpretentious, gentle, modest, and unassuming. Not to be confused with shyness, akahai is expressed as a quiet strength of character.
Ahonui as a value ranges from a simple act of patience to persevering long periods of suffering with strength and dignity.
Alaka‘i is both a noun and a verb. The noun being a person who is a leader and the verb being the act of leadership by guiding or directing. As a value, alaka‘i is about a person’s willingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership.
Ha‘aha‘a is to be unpretentious and to exude a sense of humility. As a value, ha‘aha‘a is a sign of strength through humility.
Hanohano is to conduct oneself with distinction, honor, and dignity. It describes a stately and regal bearing that one earns through acts of distinction.
Ho‘okūkū expresses a willingness to be competitive and to challenge others as in a sports context to be the best.
Ho‘ole‘ale‘a is about having fun. There are times when we need not take ourselves too seriously and it becomes productive to the human spirit to celebrate life and enjoy ourselves.
Ho‘omanawanui is a persevering patience sometimes requiring a steadfast courage.
Ho‘omana‘o is to remember and ponder in a reflective and almost meditative state.
Ho‘omaopopo is to pay attention so as to have a clear understanding absent any confusion of what is meant.
Ho‘omau speaks to perseverance and endurance. To be unceasing and committed to achieving a goal or completing a difficult task.
Ho‘okipa is to engage others (including strangers) with the utmost sense of hospitality and responsibility for their well being. To entertain and treat hospitably as a condition of honor for you and your family.
Ho‘ohiki is about keeping your promises. It is the equivalent of a pledge or oath and a serious commitment to doing what you say you’re going to do.
Ho‘ohanohano is to conduct oneself with distinction as well as to respect and honor the dignity of others.
Ho‘oheno is to sincerely cherish and love another. To be demonstrative in your affection.
Huikala is an act of complete forgiveness; to pardon and absolve others as a cleansing action that leaves no trace of prior judgment.
‘Ike pono speaks to clear and certain comprehension and understanding. To recognize and understand completely and with a feeling or sense of righteousness.
Ho‘okākou is to be inclusive of everyone as a singular grouping of “we” that diminishes the presence of “I.” To see the group as having a collective identity unto itself.
Ho‘okela speaks to the striving for excellence. To excel, to surpass, to set your sights to the highest level of achievement.
Koa is the quality of courage. It is to be brave, fearless, and valiant.
Kōkua is the act of being helpful. To provide relief by assisting others. To lend support whereby one assumes the same sense of responsibility as the receiver of the assistance toward completing a task or activity.
Kūhau is to be self-reliant and independent. To stand alone.
Kuleana is to view responsibility as a privilege and honor. To accept responsibility as a duty, not in pursuit of reward, but because it is the right thing to do.
Kūpono is about uncompromising honesty. To be fair and just in your relationships. To always seek the just and decent path in your dealings and decisions.
Laulima is the condition of cooperation that causes everyone to work together toward a common goal. It is about many hands working together without attention to rank or position so that one person’s success is everyone’s success.
Lōkahi means unity, to be expressed with harmony.
Lokomaika‘i is the spirit of generosity. It is to be benevolent, gracious, and obliging in our relationships.
Ma‘ema‘e is to seek cleanliness both physically and spiritually. To be pure and immaculate.
Mahalo is to live in a state of appreciation and thankfulness. To never forget to offer our gratitude, praise, and respect for those around us.
‘Ohana means family. Stated as a value, ‘ohana refers to a family that works together and is about emphasizing the ties that bind the group as in a family. It is feeling a commitment to each other as though one were actual blood relatives, so as to bond the group as one spirit.
Pa‘ahana as a value is to work diligently and industriously. It is a form of self-respect we bring to ourselves by working hard and with dignity.