Changing the Way the World Thinks about Strategy

By Thomas E. Ambler, Senior Consultant

Note:  This article is part of a series taken from Thomas E. Ambler’s article The Strategic Value of Values originally published in Compass Points in April 2002.  In Part One, we will introduce the series.

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

Daily our headlines shout of blatant disregard both for the law and for right vs. wrong by obscure and prominent businesses alike. We see headlines like “If you violate the law, you will pay for it”, quoting Harvey Pitt of the SEC in response to questions related to the Enron debacle with its possible auditor complicity, witting or unwitting. Or headlines like “Tyson Foods Executives Indicted” for smuggling illegal aliens, aiding them in obtaining false documents and paying INS undercover agents “recruiting expenses”. Deplorable? Yes. Shocking? Maybe. New? No. The products of human greed and moral expediency have been with us ever since Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be God.

Unfortunately, seldom do we see headlines that highlight those companies and organizations that consistently live out positive values. Our guts tell us that these businesses must benefit from their positive, Values-centered approach. But how much? Do the benefits rise above simply having well-rested employees with easy consciences? Does a Values-centered approach produce a payoff that makes these companies significantly more successful at achieving their strategic goals over the long run than they otherwise would be?

Values – A Definition

Let’s define the term “Values”. Consider first what Values are not. They are not operating or cultural practices, processes or policies. These are subject to continual revision in response to environmental changes. These may be values-based, but are not Values themselves. Instead, (borrowing from the definition of “Core Values” in Built to Last), Values are the organization’s essential and enduring tenets – a small set of general guiding principles; not to be compromised for short-term financial gain or expediency. Values are the “proven, enduring guidelines for human conduct” called “Principles” by Covey. Values include both the Commitment Statement portion of the Mission Statement and Goals in the Simplified Strategic Planning (SSP) process. For example, statements like “establishing Trust and Respect as the basis for relationships with all stakeholders”; “the Company exists to alleviate pain and eliminate disease” (Johnson & Johnson Credo); the biblical Golden Rule and “respecting and encouraging each individual’s ability and creativity” (Sony); would all qualify as Values.

The term “Values-centered” applies to an organization that only makes decisions which satisfy its Values. A Values-centered organization is more likely to take a profit hit in order to better satisfy other Values.

In a future post we will discuss Values’ Value.

To learn How to Think Strategically Beyond Profits, click here.

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Tom Ambler is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at

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