After a long week of work, I decided to take time with myself to read a very exciting and interesting book called “Brick by Brick: How Lego rewrote the rules of innovation” while enjoying a warm cup of Latte.
Going through the first chapter of the book, the author David Robertson tells a very interesting story about Godtfred Kirk (the son of Ole Kirk – Lego's owner) who has worked with his father in Lego since he was 12 years old. One time during the old days when Lego was still producing wooden toys Godtfred shared the fact that he managed to save money by using just 2 coats of varnish instead the standard, which were 3 on a group of duck toys. While Godtfred felt very happy Ole got really upset and instructed his son (who later became the CEO of the company) to go back and rectify his error. This incident inspired Godtfred to later carve his dad’s working value into a wooden plaque which says “Det bedste er ikke for godt” – “Only the best is good enough”. A mural size photograph of the plaque is now placed at the entrance to the cafeteria in the Lego’s Group Billund head offices. And as the author describes it: “It’s a signpost that summons Lego staffer to exceptional performance”.
Indeed it is such great commitment to the company’s core values that has made Lego stand out from the competition and create almost indestructible Lego bricks! It’s Ole’s authenticity to stay true to his beliefs, reinforcing those beliefs in his people and being both firm and genuine with his team even in situations when his own son took an action that wasn’t aligned with the company’s values. What a great role model!
This brings me to a very essential business term, preached by companies yet not always practiced, which is “Business Values”.
In their great book “Essentials of Strategic Management”, authors Gamble, Thompson and Peteraf define values as the “the beliefs, traits, and behavioral norms that company personnel are expected to display in conducting the company’s business and pursuing its strategic vision and mission.”
Usually most companies have 4 to 8 values, which relate to common traits like honesty, transparency, trust, integrity, excellence, etc. These values if practiced and reinforced on regular basis play major role in inspiring the team while creating sense of purpose beyond making money. However, not all companies practice what they preach! Just visionary and top notch business players understand the importance of values and walk the talk by bringing these values to life, and making them an integral part of the company’s DNA. And this what really matters.
Below are some examples of organizational values from popular brands in the toy industry (note: on the main websites of the below companies, each value was followed by a description to further clarify the purpose behind it)
Toys ‘R’ Us
In addition to the above, company’s values play an integral part in its success and contribute massively to its long-term growth. And just like Lego's performance was guided by their core value, your team's performance and brand strength can be further elevated by understanding the powerful effect values have on various business elements, below we spot the light on 3 main elements that are highly influenced through the positive reinforcement of organizational values:
- Common Language & Consistent Results: Values provide common language to align the company’s leadership and its people and guide both decision-making and the behavior of the team members which results in creating harmony within the organization and in delivering consistent outcome. Assuming that excellence is one the company’s values, team members will work hard and be inspired to apply it in all their processes and business functions in order to deliver excellent experiences to their customers through all the different touch points customers have with the brand (starting from advertisements, public relations, packaging, the products itself, customer service, after sales service, to social media and all other possible interactions)
- Hiring & Managing People: Having clear values eases the hiring process and allows the HR team to choose the right candidates who share the same values and interact with other team members smoothly. Imagine a team member at Lego who cannot care less about quality, well this is not an option for Lego! Moreover, in leading and managing people, setting crystal clear values makes it easier to correct the wrong behavior by isolating any personal feelings which occur when receiving a corrective feedback, thus creating a healthy work environment which embraces positive and constructive feedback to further improve and elevate performance
- Branding & Customers: In an abundant age of choice, customers are thirsty and drawn to original brands, which reflect sincerity, devotion and commitment to walk the talk and deliver their promises, therefore by leveraging the law of authenticity, companies win customers’ hearts and gain higher market share. Furthermore, setting values and staying true to them help companies differentiate themselves from the competition and build a loyal customer base
Nowadays consumers are buying products from companies which portray set of values similar to theirs, and for this reason, crafting company’s values has become an essential step in a company’s strategizing process while staying true to them lead businesses to continuous and long term success & growth.
Its also important to highlight that just setting values and sticking a poster on the wall is not enough, companies need to reinforce values in their team members, practice what they preach in good and bad times and regularly remind the team about these set of beliefs. And always remember “Just The Best Is Good Enough”!