I firmly believe that articulating and living by a decent set of corporate values leads to a healthy, enjoyable corporate culture and also yields the best hope for solid long-term financial performance. Over the years I’ve collected a short list of corporate values that really speak to me:
- Open and Honest Communication
- Making and Meeting Commitments
- Always Meeting or Exceeding the Customer’s Expectation for Quality
I can’t take credit for coming up with any of these on my own. Rather, these are corporate values I’ve cribbed along the way.
But, I do want to give particular credit to Adaptec. Circa 1993, Adaptec was a rapidly growing Silicon Valley high-tech company. (Does anyone remember SCSI host adapters?) At the time Adaptec was led by John Adler, a charismatic and sharp leader who had survived the holocaust as a child. In those years Adaptec actively promoted variants of each of the these three values. One would encounter these in company-wide events, meetings and even casual conversations with coworkers. This was the first time in my career when I started to see the positive value of clearly articulated values.
To my mind there are a few things must be true in order to establish an effective set of corporate values:
- The values must be stated!
- The value statement needs to be short and to the point.
- Employees must be able to internalize the values.
Taking the first two points together, there is no value in a “values statement” if none of the employees (or new hires along the way) know the values. And, it’s not enough to hear the values now and then in a company-wide meeting. “Stating” the values needs to be a habit so that employees (managers and non-managers alike) learn and reinforce the stated values.
It is the third point, however, where the values truly begin to yield benefits. The values become truly “valuable” when all employees are conscious of the stated values and apply those values in the countless daily decisions involved in running any organization. I’m not talking just about executive and managerial decisions…I’m also talking about that voice in the back of each employee’s head when confronted with any daily choice. “How will I handle this problem?” “How will I handle this confrontation?” “Is this a good opportunity?”
Management books extol the virtues of “empowering” employees. To my mind a clear articulation of values is the best way to help shape the decisions made up and down the line. It’s not merely enough to empower employees to make decisions. It is essential to give employees a value-oriented framework in which to make each decision. In doing so an organization raises the average quality and harmony of these innumerable decisions.
In my next few posts I’ll talk about each of these values and how they apply to daily decision making.