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writing core values

Discovering your Company’s Core Ideology

If you hear the words “vision”, “purpose” or “ideology” and think “Collins and Porras” then you know exactly what we’re talking about here.

Built to Last (written by both Collins and Porras) and Good to Great (written by Collins) have been described by The Economist as “the Harry Potters of management literature”. 

In fact, if you haven’t picked these two books up yet – head to Amazon and click the “Buy it Now” button. We’ll wait. 

Oh good, you’re back. Congratulations on the best purchase you’ve ever made. These books are the building blocks of creating an amazing company vision that will build your empire. Built to Last was a fixture on the BusinessWeek bestseller list for more than six years and Good to Great (which has been translated into 35 languages) was, in 2008, the bestselling business book of all time. OF. ALL. TIME! 

For this reason, Collins and Porras are now synonymous with all things company vision, ideology, values, purpose, and basically helping businesses figure out what they are doing and why they are doing it. 

Collins and Porras’ philosophy is a great place to begin the journey of strategic alignment within your company and creating a company vision, a unified focus and motivated people. 

Company core values

So, while you wait for your two-day shipping to arrive, here’s a rundown to get you started on discovering your company’s core ideology. 

CORE VALUES

What is it? Beliefs, principles or tenets that are absolutely non-negotiable within an organization. Typically, these are 3-5 values that are truly critical and important to your business – the things you couldn’t live without. 

Why does it matter? Core values matter because they don’t change regardless of situations or external justification. They keep your company grounded in what is truly important and help guide decision-making within the company. 

How do I know my core values? Typically, your core values are discovered, not decided. They can’t be created out of nothing because otherwise they are less authentic and lead to cynicism. To test whether a value is truly core, Collins suggests asking whether you would want your organization to stand for this value in 100 years and he even goes so far as to ask whether you would continue to hold this core value “even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage”?

writing core values

For Example: Let’s look at SONY as an example for core values. Sony has three distinct core values:

1. Elevation of Japanese culture and national status 

2. Being a pioneer – not following others, doing the impossible

3. Encouraging individual ability and creativity. 

These are the things that they will never change regardless of whether Sony makes televisions or hoverboards. These are what the company is grounded in and what they are always using as guiding principles to make decisions. 

CORE PURPOSE

What is it?

Every company has a purpose, even if it’s not well articulated. This is the heartbeat of your organization. It’s the fundamental reason why you’re in business and why you do what you do.  This isn’t your product or service, but it’s a motivational purpose that grabs your soul. 

Why does it matter?

Your purpose is your guiding star, it’s something that is forever pursued but not actually ever reached. It determines the line by which all other decisions should be measured. 

How do I know my core purpose?

Again, your core purpose should come naturally and fundamental. It is discovered, not created. To determine your core purpose, Collins and Porras suggest asking questions such as:

·      How could we frame the purpose of this organization so that if you woke up tomorrow morning with enough money in the bank to retire, you would nevertheless keep working here?

·      When telling your children and/or other loved ones what you do for a living, would you feel proud in describing your work in terms of this purpose?

For Example: 

Let’s look at Sony again. Their core purpose is “to experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public.” This is very different from their core values (elevating Japanese culture, being a pioneer and encouraging individual ability). But the two work together to create a core ideology of Sony, Inc. 

 Core Purpose + Core Values = Core Ideology

Let’s look at another example – Disney

Core Values of Disney: 

·      No cynicism 

·      Nurturing and promulgation of “wholesome American values” 

·      Creativity, dreams, and imagination

·      Fanatical attention to consistency and detail 

·      Preservation and control of the Disney magic.

That’s a lot of core values and it encompasses a lot of non-negotiable beliefs. On the other hand, their core purpose is very simple: 

Core Purpose: “To make people happy.” 

When their values and their purpose are combined, they created a company that is untouchable. 

Core Purpose + Core Values = Core Ideology

These two things define a company’s timeless character. It is the meaning and inspiration to the people inside the company. Most of the time, the general public never even knows the core purpose, values, or ideology of a company. BUT they will feel it. You can tell that Disney does things differently. Their attention to detail and their creativity is unmatched and well known. However, only the people within the organization need to commit to that ideology, the public just gets to benefit from it. 

Your core ideology often determines who works for your company and who doesn’t. You can’t impose new values on people, so the people within your organization should be predisposed to the same ideology you share.

For Collins and Porras, their vision framework is about preserving the core and still stimulating progress. It’s not either core or progress. The two elements work at full force, inextricably linked and working to create your future. 

Sources: 

Collins, J.C. (2002). Vision framework. Available as a PDF from Jim Collins’ website

Collins, J.C. & Porras, J.I. (1996). Building your company’s vision. Harvard Business Review

Reingold, J. & Underwood, R. (2004). Was “Built To Last” built to last? Fast Company

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