Defined: Core Values

The next few articles are going to be about vocabulary, but I will try to keep it interesting. I’m aware… Everybody already knows what core values are. That, I believe, is a problem. The word (along with the other strategic planning terminology) has become such a common part of business vernacular that true meaning has been obscured. So, let us bring some clarity to the muddy waters.

Core values are the compilation of the ideas viewed by organizational leadership to be absolute, non-negotiable standards. Those standards should apply to both culture and conduct; they direct the decisions and actions for everyone in the organization. They are core values, because “core” is an adjective describing “values” as in “values that are the most important or central”. So “core values” will not encompass everything the leaders of an organization value. Rather, they will be a list of the top 4 to 10 most important/central values.

Think about a tree (or just look at the picture I included). If the tree represents your organization’s strategic plan, then core values are the roots. They are below the surface, deep, and as large as the top of the tree. Roots anchor & nourish the tree; they are vital to its health.

Likewise, core values are central to an organization. They seep into and through every facet of the culture. They too are below the surface but are vital to the health of the organization. And core values are most definitely an anchor, keeping the leaders tethered to the Earth. Without that anchor, the organization (much like a tree) would topple as soon as it is faced with a difficult decision.

Maybe nothing here was new to you. I hope that’s OK. Even if I am reiterating what you already know, I think there is value ensuring that we are all meaning the same thing when we talk about Core Values. If we are on the same page, please like, comment, and share.