WHY COMPANY VALUES FAIL

Company values are often a joke. Instead of inspiring the right behavior they end up as lofty words on a poster in reception without having any real impact: “In this company we are honest, open, customer oriented” etc. etc. I am sure you’ve heard the song before.

My problem with values is that they often lack teeth. If you really want to drive behaviors which turn goals into results you need something much more powerful than values. You need internalized principles – or what the American business expert Jim Collins has called “catalytic mechanisms”. Let me give you an example.

One of the most popular sports in Finland is folk racing. As opposed to most racing series, for example Formula 1, the governing body of Finnish folk racing doesn’t want the best car to win. It wants the best driver to win.

To create an equal playing field where big financial investments into the cars don’t become the decisive factor Finnish Folk Racing has internalized a very smart principle. Every car in the race has a nominal value of €1400. After each race, any competition-licensed driver can buy any other car in the race for the maximum of €1400. Refusing to sell your car is grounds for having your competition license revoked.

The principle is smart because it eliminates excessive investment of money and makes the driver’s skill the winning ingredient. Instead of a lofty set of values and aspirations on a website talking about equality or competitive balance, Finnish Folk Racing has implemented one simple principle that achieves the objective.

I am convinced that any business can create its own version of the €1400 principle. Forget about the lofty values and create a few simple principles translating words to action.

 

Posted on 9th Feb 2015 by Rasmus Ankersen

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