I was reading an article titled building Your Company’s Vision By James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (the authors of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies), when I came across this quote:
The point is that a great company decides for itself what values it holds to be core, largely independent of the current environment, competitive requirements, or management fads. Clearly, then, there is no universally right set of core values. A company need not have as its core value customer service (Sony doesn’t) or respect for the individual (Disney doesn’t) or quality (Wal-Mart stores doesn’t) or market focus (Hp Doesn’t) or teamwork (Nordstrom doesn’t). A company might have operating practices and business strategies around those qualities without having them at the essence of its being. Furthermore, great companies need not have likeable or humanistic core values, although many do. The key is not what core values an organization has but that it has core values at all.
I love this quote. Many reasons. The main reason – it exemplifies the fact that sometimes what you are not, is just as important as what you are. What isn’t there can often trump what is. The point is that it is not only about choosing some core values. It is about making the choice to begin with thus excluding other choices. Making a deliberate decision to say – this is what I am, which means I am not something else.
We have, in the westernized world, a culture built around stories of great success. Of people who did it all. And we get a sense that we can have it all. But we can’t. Nobody, be it company or individual, ever does everything well. It is those who choose, make tradeoffs and focus that become the best.
I think people easily forget this. This is why you have so many value statements about core values that are not worth the paper they are written on. It is easy to say these are the values I want to stand for. It is easy to say we will focus on customer service. It is much harder to admit that the values we stand for mean that we don’t stand for other things. That our focus on customer service has to come on the expense of something else.
So, what do you, your team or your company stand for? what don’t you stand for?