In Jim Collins' book Good to Great, he calls your core ideology "the extra dimension of enduring greatness." He puts forth the idea that a company's Core Values & Core Purpose are the things that remain constant throughout a company's existence. At the same time, the strategies and practices are adjusted and adapted to keep up with a changing world; you keep setting new BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) every 10-25 years, but your Core remains the same. Collins calls it "preserving the core and stimulating progress."
He also says that there isn't one Core Value that all great companies share. In fact, it wasn't so much what they had as their Core Values, but the fact that they had them at all. Great companies were purposeful about having values, building them explicitly in the organization and preserving them over time.
How confident are you in your organization's Core Values? Would you be able to stop a co-worker in the hallway and know that they could state your core values?
If your Core Values don't pass the hallway test, use a Think-Plan-Do Rhythm to improve.
Determine your starting point and commit to a Think Rhythm of working on your Core Values over time. For example, you might need to start from scratch to discover your core values or have a working list of ideas that you would like to test. Next, determine the best people to work on this (usually it's an executive team working together) and establish your day/time to meet. It could be a one hour weekly meeting or call. It might be every two weeks. You set the best Think Rhythm for your team. It's a process, so expect to spend some time on this. I've had some teams do this in a quarter, while others took three.
After you have your Core Values documented, you need to bring them to life in your organization. This takes some planning. Over the years, we've seen some great ideas for making Core Values part of every day management. Perhaps you are going to start a Culture Book, or announce an award named after one of your values. At the very least, you need to consider how you will use your Core Values in hiring and evaluating employees. At your next quarterly planning session, decide what you are going to commit to action. There should be some Company and/or Individual Priorities regarding rolling out and implementing your Core Values. Make sure these are set up on your quarterly dashboard with Red-Yellow-Green success criteria and action items.
Once you've committed to your priorities regarding Core Values, hold each other accountable to getting them done at your Weekly Meetings. Make sure that Culture Book gets published, or that award gets presented. Also, each person on the executive team needs to incorporate the values into their vernacular - use them in conversations everyday. Use the words and phrases from your values when praising/coaching direct reports, in hiring/firing, during meetings, etc.
Once you've had a few quarters of using Think-Plan-Do to work on your Core Values, step out into the hallway again and don't be afraid to ask. You'll be pleasantly surprised!
Want to read more about Core Values? Check out these additional resources:
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