Skip to main content
Listen to the At the Table Podcast
Want to be affiliated with us? Join CAPA PRO

Harvard Business Review - Make Your Values Mean Something

By Patrick Lencioni - July 2002

Take a look at this list of corporate values: Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence. They sound pretty good, don’t they? Maybe they even resemble your own company’s values. If so, you should be nervous. These are the corporate values of Enron, as claimed in its 2000 annual report. And they’re absolutely meaningless.

Indeed, most values statements, says Lencioni, are bland, toothless, or just plain dishonest. And far from being harmless, as some executives assume, they’re often highly destructive. Empty values statements create cynical and dispirited employees and undermine managerial credibility. But coming up with strong values–and sticking to them–isn’t easy. Organizations that want their values statements to really mean something should follow four imperatives. First, understand the different types of values: core, aspirational, permission-to-play and accidental. Second, be aggressively authentic. Third, own the process. Finally, weave core values into everything. Living by stated corporate values is difficult. But the benefits of doing so can be profound; so can the damage from adopting a hollow set of corporate values… Purchase the full article on Harvard Business School Publishing site »