Ignore Your Values, Crash Your Brand

“Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.” -Andrew Carnegie

Strategies can change, but values don’t. Your company’s values are the glue that holds it together. They’re what forms the culture of your organization, attracts the right people and helps you serve your clients.

Carnegie’s message is relevant today. Advancements in technology—search, social media and mobile—are all influencing how we market, sell and develop our services. And they’re forcing change at breakneck speeds. The only constants we can hold onto are our people and our values.

Strategies have a shelf-life

Your business cannot remain static. It has to be adapted and changed over time. Typically strategies have a shelf life of three to seven years (depending on the industry). Technology companies tend to operate in smaller windows, while service companies have a bit more time on their hands.

But no matter the industry, we all face the forces of change. Technology, regulations, competitors, product offerings and tastes are all shifting. If you don’t stay ahead of the trends, you risk being left behind.

Don’t mess with your values

Values on the other hand are static. They don’t change, because they’re part of the DNA of your organization. That is what Carnegie is referring to when he said, “Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.”

A great way to think of strategies versus values is to imagine a journey. In the book Brand Driven, LePla et al. present an excellent metaphor on the importance of values.

You can change your brand, change your purpose and change your service model, and your ship will keep sailing. But if you tamper with your values, you risk crashing into the shores. And these crashes can severely damage your ship, or even destroy it.

Strategy requires self-awareness

Great strategies are not developed in a vacuum. They’re built upon the talents and values of your team. Understanding what makes your people tick and what they value is essential in navigating this ever-changing business world.