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Here's something I've noticed a lot lately: Much of the literature around organizational culture has a heavy emphasis on the importance of articulating the values and beliefs that define a company's culture. The thinking is that if you can clearly articulate the core principles that are truly central to who you are, then you can drive greater organizational alignment. It sounds pretty smart, but does it really work? I'm not so sure.

What's The Impact?

I have to admit that I'm a bit of a contrarian on this point. To be clear, there's nothing wrong, and in fact, there's a lot right about articulating what you believe in. It's just that I'm not sure it has much impact on what people actually do every day. And isn't that what we should care about most? Let me show you what I mean and offer an alternative.
When companies try to state their core principles, they most often take the form of either values or beliefs. For example, they may proclaim that they value:

  • Trust.
  • Integrity.
  • Quality.
  • Respect.
  • Service.

Or a company might describe a set of beliefs. For example:

  • We believe that our people are our greatest asset.
  • We believe in continuous improvement.
  • We believe in personal service.
  • We believe that our customers come first.

Having established these core principles, they then hold a company meeting, post them on the walls, and maybe even have employees sign a document pledging adherence to the principles. And then everyone goes back to work doing the same things they've always done. Sound familiar?

While it's great to be clear about what's important to you, unless we can translate those values or beliefs into real actions, they have minimal impact. The missing link is the notion of behaviors.

The Missing Link

Behaviors are actions. They're something we do. And because they're clear and concrete and observable, they're much easier to guide, coach, teach, and provide feedback on. We call these behaviors "Fundamentals" because we think they're fundamental to success.
The more plainly we can describe the Fundamental behaviors that lead to success, the more easily we can teach them, and the more easily we can get our people to do them consistently. And the more they do them consistently, the more we achieve. And isn't that the point? To achieve high performance.

If you've been stuck in the world of values and beliefs, but haven't been able to get the results you want, you might consider the Fundamentals method. It's more practical. And it works.

Contributed by David Friedman, author of Fundamentally Different


Larry Hart

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