Defining Company Vision Through Core Values

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In our last issue we introduced the concept of values; what they are, and their origin. More importantly, we talked about just how important they are in terms of attracting the right talent, and defining your organization’s culture. We also introduced and talked briefly about Zappos’ struggle and how they developed their core values; values that are now so ingrained within the organization’s culture that they hire and fire talent based on these values. Granted they developed these values through a rather informal framework. Just in case you missed the article, you can read it here. Within that same article we also provided a link to Zappos’ core values, which we strongly recommend you read. As you read through these values (as simple as they may appear), you can see how they lay the foundation for training and developing your talent. If your organization has or is taking a similar approach, then you’re on the right path to success (with the right people on the bus).

While the above holds true, one thing we failed to mention in our last post, was the single, most important benefit of developing core values for your organization: endured success throughout the lifetime of your organization. While business strategies and practices change and evolve over time, the core values do not (nor should they). It is for this very reason that companies like Coca-Cola, Sony, and HP (just to name a few) have managed to sustain their positions in their respective industries.

Why is this? Well for starters, these organizations have a firm grasp of what needs to remain constant and what does not. They have a vision. They understand exactly who they are in the confines of their market place.

According to James C. Collins, an organization’s vision comprises of two key elements – a core ideology and an envisioned future. On one hand, the core ideology is what the organization stands for (which should never change). The core ideology consists of core values (a system guiding principles and tenets) and the core purpose (the organization’s fundamental reason for existing). On the other hand, the envisioned future is exactly what it sounds like – what the organization seeks to become or achieve. Hopefully at this point, you are starting to see why it is important for an organization to develop a company vision. If your organization already has one, then you have taken the first step to earning the right to attract select the best talent available.

Defining your Core Ideology

Identifying and developing your core values requires a little bit of introspection, and more importantly, honesty. Your list of values doesn’t have to be a page-long document. If this is the case, you’re letting yourself off the hook. Remember, your core values shouldn’t change. Ever. They shouldn’t be something your organization does because it is easy or convenient. Instead, your values should be the guiding force for your organization through the good times and bad. To better illustrate this, let’s take a look at a few core values from companies who are doing it right:

  • Profit, but profit from work that benefits humanity (Merck)

  • Never being satisfied (Nordstrom)

  • Hard work and continuous self-improvement (Philip Morris)

  • Encouraging individual ability and creativity (Sony)

  • Fanatical attention to consistency and detail (Walt Disney)

In an attempt to help people/organizations articulate a robust set of values, Collins and his team developed what they call the Mars Group – a group of individuals that best represent your organization’s core values. The concept is simple – imagine you had to recreate your company on a different planet, but you could only bring a handful of people with you.

What would that team look like?

Doing this will force you to make those really hard decisions – and what you end up with is a group of people that accurately represents your organization’s values.

On the other side of the core ideology coin is the core purpose – organization’s reason for existing. Now this is where it gets tricky. The purpose is something that should not be achievable, but something your organization strives for each and every day of its existence. Once again, the purpose should not be confused with your organizations goals as these are attainable (one would assume). Instead, the organization’s purpose should be all-encompassing, holistic, but more importantly, timeless. Consider the following examples:

  • To solve unsolved problems innovatively (3M)

  • To make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity (Hewlett-Packard)

  • To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors (Nike)

  • To make people happy (Walt Disney)

Before concluding, we’d like to leave you with a few questions to ponder when you begin developing your own set of values:

  1. If you suddenly became wealthy, would you still hold onto your values?

  2. Would your values carry the same weight 100 years from now?

  3. Would you adhere to those values if you were faced with difficult decision?

  4. If you started a new organization tomorrow, regardless of industry, would you employ the same set of values?

Taking the time to answer these difficult questions will guide you to developing a solid vision for your organization. Furthermore, it will provide you with the framework with which to attract and retain top-tier talent. Don’t let yourself off the hook!

VisionSpark is the Talent Planning and Retained Executive Search Firm of Alec Broadfoot and Adam McCampbell. For more news and updates on hiring and training, follow the conversation at @Hire4Impact or like us on Facebook.

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