The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter April 30, 2014

Do you understand and utilize core values?

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When I was discussing core values with a Hollywood production company’s CEO, he piped up and said, “I know what you mean, John. Integrity is key for success in Hollywood.” When I looked at him in disbelief, he added: “And once you learn how to fake that, you have it made.”

I could understand his cynical perspective. I’ve seen many corporate value statements that were obviously written to make customers, vendors, and investors feel good about the company rather than serve as a guide for corporate behavior. Enron’s stated values, for example, were “respect, integrity, communication and excellence.” History shows that they were very skilled at faking integrity.

Every healthy organization has a set of values that every employee shares. These core values date back to the company founders and have been reinforced through years of hiring and retaining people who share them.

They are a powerful productivity tool. When everyone in an organization shares the same values, you don't need burdensome procedures and policies to enforce them. However, it can be very destructive if you bring someone into the organization who doesn't share those values.

Verifying shared values should be an integral part of the recruitment process. Go beyond asking candidates if they share a value; have them share experiences when they found that value was challenged.

Make sure you identify, communicate, and enforce your core values.  Since everyone in your company must share them, you can't have a large number of core values. Three to five values can realistically be “core” and shared across the entire workforce. Five to ten might be a hopeful wish. If you claim to hold ten or more core values, that's nonsense!

Seek out a single word or short phrase to articulate each value such as integrity, family, innovation, or nimbleness. When communicating core values, don’t ramble on or offer multiple examples. Ask your team or your employees what they think a particular value means, and what examples they might share with others. Use creative paraphrasing in responding to their suggestions, thus helping your engaged employees hone in on the essence of the core value.

"Inspirational" posters of obviously fictitious values hung on the company walls will breed cynicism and distrust. Real, understood, and sustained core values that reflect every employee's daily behavior are a powerful, productive and stabilizing force in your company. They really can be key for success. 

Create a strategic plan with your team

"Management is doing things right;
leadership is doing the right things."
Peter Drucker

A well facilitated strategic planning process is a proven way to identify identify and reinforce an organization's core values.

How long have you been saying that you are going to develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc


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This proven approach is based on our experience facilitating strategic planning for hundreds of organizations over the last 20 years.


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