Every so often a business book comes along with the potential to make a profound difference in the business world—if only the right people pick it up. Peters and Waterman introduced the concept of shared values in their bestseller “In Search of Excellence” in 1982. In 1994, Collins and Porras in “Built to Last” furthered the discussion of core purpose and values. Now professors Freeman and Auster more deeply mine the idea behind, purpose of and value inherent in corporate values as they explain not just 'what' and 'why', but also 'how to'.
This is essential reading for any executive in a company with articulated corporate values (or thinking of articulating them) that they hope will make a difference for the business. This book makes a strong case for corporate values—if done the right way. (Here’s a hint: it involves more than simply espousing them.)
Let’s face it, every company already has a set of values, whether the executives have formally articulated them or not. These values may not even be the ones posted on the boardroom wall. So, do these values help or hurt the company? If they’re helpful, could they play a more profound role in the company’s success? Can management learn how to harness the power of corporate values to the company’s benefit? Or will mismanaged values push a company along haphazardly as leadership is left to wonder why it cannot better steer its business?
In “Bridging the Values Gap”, Freeman and Auster delve into the concept of ‘authenticity’ in business and the central role it holds in articulating corporate values and managing the organization through them. They then probe four types of corporate values: introspective, historical, connectedness and aspirational and how a company’s exploration of these concepts through conversations can effectively elicit a stronger, more directed, more engaged and more aligned corporate culture.
In “Bridging the Values Gap”, Freeman and Auster also address: • The critical importance of corporate values to business value and success. • The distinction between stated values and living values. • What executives get wrong about corporate values, and how to get it right. • Plenty of stories of companies getting it right and the value that comes from these efforts. • The numerous traps and pitfalls when undertaking a values initiative and how to avoid them.
As a business leader and consultant, this book has profound implications for how I will think about business performance and success and the levers that affect them. It offers a thorough look into a dimension of corporate strategy and operations, culture and performance that few have explored with any significance and are the worse for not having done so.
It is important to know that in this book Freeman and Auster do not offer a quick, easy solution for improving the next quarter’s financial results. Rather, they present a thoughtful approach for how to strengthen significance and coordination in business and, in doing so, ratchet up employee understanding, passion and engagement. This helps to ensure that employees are more inspired, educated and directed in performing for the company as they never have before. This book is a recipe for meaningful, lasting performance—as long as, the authors point out, the effort remains a continuous process.
This will be one of the few business books that I look forward to reading a second time.