Incorporating Core Values into Decision-Making

By Dawna Jones

Part of Decision Making For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Core values reflect what is important to your company. They serve as the unshakeable foundation for what your company stands for in good and bad times. When integrated into decision-making, core values are part of decision-makers’ mindsets at every level in the company.

Consider core values the nonnegotiable part of your company’s reputation, sustained by the commitment of executives and employees at every level to live those values in their decision-making and in their relationships with company personnel, customers, suppliers, and communities.

Core values express your company’s core priorities and its commitment to, for example, making the environment and social health integral parts of management and operational thinking and perspectives.

To identify your core values, ask questions such as the following:

  • To gain clarity on what you feel is critical:

    • What does your company stand for?

    • What values express what is important and essential to how you operate and why your company exists?

  • To gain insight on how your values permeate internal relationships:

    • How do your employees describe your company’s core values?

    • Why do they work for you and not the competitor down the street?

  • To gain clarity on how your customers view your integrity and how your values are expressed through your action:

    • How would your suppliers or customers describe your values?

To become a company that uses value-based decision-making to anchor decisions, you need to reflect on and identify what your company’s core values are. To do so, take a close look at what is going on in your company. Core values — whether they were thoughtfully created or not — are embedded in your company’s priorities, actions, and management decisions, and in its relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and the environment.

When you incorporate your core values into your decision-making, you enjoy these benefits:

  • In a business climate where customer testimonials define your reputation and attract loyalty, integrating your core values with decision-making and action offers stability, particularly when conditions are chaotic.

    Novo Nordisk, for example, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has a list of core values, as many companies do. It includes words accountable, responsible, and ready for change. That’s all well and good, but the important thing about core values isn’t what’s on the poster in the hall of a company; it’s how they’re applied. When Novo Nordisk makes decisions, the final check is, “Is the decision financially, environmentally, and socially responsible?” Simply put, the company’s commitment to core values — the health of the economy, environment, and society — is a recognized part of its long-term success.

    Unilever is another company that connects core values to priorities. Recognizing that the company is a part of a wider fabric of existence, its decision-makers actively engage a wider view, one that embraces the company but also extends beyond company boundaries into the health of society, communities, and the environment.

  • When your company’s decisions are aligned with its core values, you streamline decision-making. When used for decision-making, core values take a complex set of conditions and run them through a simple filter so that financial and nonfinancial measure of success are intertwined. In a complex, fast-changing business environment, decision-making needs to be streamlined and progressive, and decision-makers need to look ahead rather than rely solely on past beliefs and practices.

    The solution isn’t to get rid of past practices altogether (although it may mean that); it’s to be aware of what guided decision-making in the past so that you can select faster, more effective approaches to meet today’s needs.