Put Power In Your Values
Johnson & Johnson was once revered as the epitome of a company whose core values had overcome a devastating setback that might have sunk a lesser company. When an unknown assailant poisoned random boxes of Extra Strength Tylenol in 1982, the company’s transparent response became the gold standard of crisis management. By 2011, according to David Gebler, author of The 3 Power Values, Johnson & Johnson had a new and unfortunate identity as a company whose quality was so poor that it had issued a dozen recalls in the last two years alone. It had even been caught in a "phantom recall" — hiring people to surreptitiously take boxes off the shelves so that it could avoid issuing another recall. What happened to the values of the company? Were the executives in 2011 so different from those in 1982?
Roadblocks to Ethical Performance
According to Gebler, while the company had undergone a number of structural and ownership changes since 1982, the core issue was that the company had lost its grip on its culture of ethics and values. This is a common problem, he writes. Executives can be baffled when employees and managers act in ways that are clearly contrary to the culture of the company — or at least what those executives believe to be the culture of the company. In truth, writes Gebler, companies themselves often put up the roadblocks that prevent employees, managers and even executives from behaving the way they should.
The problem is a work environment or culture that pushes employees and managers to unethical or potentially damaging behavior, Gebler writes. A single-minded focus on reducing costs or forcing people to do too much with too little, for example, can cause employees to take dangerous shortcuts. The stated values of a company mean little if the culture is not aligned with those values.
To prevent a company’s own culture from sabotaging the values and ethics of that company and its people, Gebler advocates the use of three "power" values that, "can influence specific behaviors that will have a positive influence on an organization’s culture." These behaviors, he continues, "will push and nudge the organization’s goals, principles and standards into alignment."
Gebler’s three power values are: Integrity, Commitment and Transparency. His use of the word "power" is not related to the amount of power one acquires through these values, but because they are values that enable the alignment described above.
Integrity, he explains, links an organization’s goals (what it says it will do) to its standards (what it actually does). Integrity is built on two dimensions: fairness and consistency on the one hand, and accountability and responsibility on the other.
The second power value, Commitment, links an organization’s principles and its goals, which is often not the case. The organization may have a certain set of principles, but the constraints and requirements of its goals force people to abandon those principles. Finally, Transparency links standards and principles.
The 3 Power Values is filled with real-life examples that reinforce its important lessons. Any manager or executive facing unethical or destructive behavior in the company should look at the corporate culture first before assigning blame.
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