Linking Performance to Company Values

Intel corporate values include risk taking, discipline, and results orientation. These are exactly the values one would expect of a company whose primary strategy is one of product leadership. Without these specific company values the product leadership strategy would surely fail. In firms where the values and the strategy are tested daily it requires management oversight to ensure that they remain aligned.

Company values, published or not, exist and are used everyday by employees in making decisions on behalf of the company. Well chosen values suggest priorities that guide employees through right versus wrong choices. Simple values that retain a position in top of mind during a hectic day are best. Some classic examples are “Safety first” or “Quality is job 1.”

Values become the customer visible persona of your company. The types of values can be divided into the basic values that are required for continued employment at the company, core values, and aspirational values. The core values set a company apart from the competition by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for employees.

A company strategy is the blueprint that describes the future one wants and it provides a high-level roadmap for getting there. The long term core strategy for beating the competition can usually be reduced to the company’s decision to dominate at one of the following:

  • Customer relationships or service (have it your way)
  • Operational excellence (best overall value)
  • Product or service leadership (Being first or best)

So Intel chooses product leadership above all else; FedEx targets operational excellence; Nordstrom has made customer relationship its mantra. A company’s domination of one of these three “value disciplines” defines what makes them uniquely better than their competition from a customer perspective and as such it constitutes their long term competitive strategy. But in order for this competitive strategy to work the company values and the values of the employees have to line up with the strategy. So just as Intel’s values have to be around risk taking and results in order to support the product leadership strategy, FedEx’s values lean towards improvement seeking, diligence, promptness, and reliability in order to achieve operational excellence. Nordstrom’s strategy is to serve the customer above all else and the people they hire have to excel in their ability to offer the best customer service.

Sales success is dependent on your competitive strategy which in turn is linked to your company values and those of your employees. Do the people you hire have the right values to make the strategy work? Is the primary reason your customers buy from you supported by the values of the employees? Do the messages in your marketing materials represent your company values and your competitive strategy?

Ernest Shackleton’s candid but successful advertisement in 1914 for men to travel with him on the first crossing of Antarctica demonstrates that he knew he needed people with the appropriate values to successfully execute his strategy:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

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