A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

13 January 2010

Pick One, Please

Recently I was driving down the much-maligned Interstate 4, and I saw one of those trucks that is covered with information about a business. The name and nature of the business didn't really stick with me, but one particular bit of lettering really stood out. It said:

"We put quality, honesty and integrity first."

To which I responded, "huh?"

As I understand it, the word "first" refers to item number one. Last I checked, the gold medal is not given to the top three contestants -- only to the top one. So how can three things all be first?

"No, no," you say. "Clearly this business has these three values as its highest priorities, and they are all equal in importance." And I would agree that this was likely the intent of the framers of this particular statement.

But here's the thing -- what happens when you can't do all three at once?

Supposing the only way you could get the highest quality material available would be to purchase it from someone you knew was importing it illegally. Knowingly breaking the law while claiming to hold honesty as a core value would be dishonest, or at least out of integrity, right? But in order to maintain integrity and honesty, you'd have to settle for the second-best quality. When push comes to shove in business, only one value can reside in the top spot. As a business owner, you get to pick which one, but you can only pick one.

Have you reviewed your company's values lately? If not, check two things: first, check that your list of values is written down in order of priority. Second, do some exploring of the reality on the ground, and make sure it is consistent with your professed values. If you say you value honesty and the evidence suggests your employees don't trust each other, something is wrong. If you say you value good customer service and you get a lot of complaints, something is wrong. What values are evident in your work environment? How do they compare to the "words on the wall"? Anything need fixing?

1 comment:

Star Straf said...

I just started a new job (2.5 weeks now) and I had read the company mission and vision before the interview but it was good to go back and re-read now that I have been here a bit and is good to see that from what I see so far the mission and vision are in line with what I have learned.