Posted by: Joe Hoffman | March 10, 2010

Enterprise Values

Every enterprise, of whatever scale, knows that it needs a “Mission Statement” so they go off and create something, sometime from a group consensus effort sometimes it is just the senior exec.   Invariably they are then told that they need a Vision statement.  All well and good, so off they go and create a “Vision Statement” to articulate internally and externally.    I have expressed my opinions on these in an earlier post so today I want to deal with the next batter up, the Enterprise Values.    Taken together, mission, vision and values should be answering the questions, what do we do, where are we going and how do we get there?  The first two are generally understood by founders, senior execs and hopefully, the employees.  Getting them well articulated and memorable is harder but doable.  Values are a whole other bag of snakes.

When working with small businesses, start-up organizations or turn around plays, I stress repeatedly that understanding the core values of the organization and the key players is absolutely critical to success.  The values of an enterprise, as expressed in real behaviors toward customers, employees and other stakeholders, will always be the core values of the senior executive.  Engaging the larger employee force in an effort to define the enterprise value set is a complete waste of effort and will likely result in dis-engagement over a relatively short-term.

If the key executive has done a good job of  understanding themselves and hired the senior team to compliment their short comings, there is a chance that having them involved in defining and articulating a value set  may be worthwhile. That statement comes with the caveat that the articulated values can not be too far from the Exec’s  because no one can truly hide who they are for very long.   Our behaviors, particularly under stress, bring our core to the surface.

Generally speaking, our individual values and ethics are based on, first and foremost, our belief systems, typically learned in our formative years and then from experience and observation.  Without delving into the psychological underpinnings the point I make is that by the time we are a fully functional adult, these beliefs, values and the ethical behaviors are so ingrained that it simply is who we are.  No one can be on stage acting out a script all day.  We will revert to our basic values and if they are in conflict with the script, our customers, employees and partners will react strongly.

That old adage, “To thyself be true.” is worth thinking about again.  If you are still not sure of what your true values are and you play golf, ask your playing partners.  They know!



  1. Joe,
    Good post. I like “Our behaviors, particularly under stress, bring our core to the surface.” and intend to quote you. 🙂

    We are working on improving coaching skills and many times we, including myself, don’t do what we were taught and agreed was a better way simply because stress reset us back to our core skill.

    The message for anyone here is to over train. Get so good at the skill that you could forget half of what you know and still do it. Under stress you will lose 50% of your capacity. That is why so many management training programs fail to produce results. Not enough practice to overcome the past during stressful times.

  2. […] Joe Hoffman wrote an insightful blog post “Enterprise Values” […]

  3. Thanks Jim. Along these lines and the issue of training and changing behaviors you might care to read my blog post


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