Is Your Business Built on Core Values?

IS YOUR BUSINESS BUILT ON CORE VALUES AND
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR CORE VALUES REALLY ARE?

In most cases, a core value can be boiled down to a piercing simplicity that provides substantial guidance. Notice how Sam Walton captured the essence of Wal-Mart’s number one value: “[We put] the customer ahead of everything else. . . . If you’re not serving the customer, or supporting the folks who do, then we don’t need you.” Notice how James Gamble simply and elegantly stated P&G’s core value of product quality and honest business: “When you cannot make pure goods of full weight, go to something else that is honest, even if it is breaking stone.” Notice how John Young, former HP chief executive, captured the simplicity of the HP Way: “The HP Way basically means respect and concern for the individual; it says ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ That’s really what it’s all about.” The core value can be stated a number of different ways, yet it remains simple, clear, straightforward, and powerful.

Visionary companies tend to have only a few core values, usually between three and six. In fact, we found none of the visionary companies to have more than six core values, and most have less. And, indeed, we should have more than six core values, and most have less. And, indeed, we should expect this, for only a few values can be truly core – values so fundamental and deeply held that they will change or be compromised seldom, if ever.

This has important implications for articulating core values in your own organization. If you list more than five or six values, you might not be capturing those that are truly core. If you have a statement of corporate values, or are in the process of creating one, you might ask yourself: “Which of these values would we strive to live to for a hundred years regardless of changes in the external environment – even if the environment ceased to reward us for having these values, or perhaps even penalized us? Conversely, which values would we be willing to change or discard if the environment no longer favored them?” These questions can help you identify which values are authentically core.

BUILT TO LAST
Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
James C. Collins
Jerry I. Porras