Value Systems : Developing Value Statements: Lessons From War

Scott Valentine is Managing Director of TQM Quest  which assists companies and individuals in development challenges in Asia.  Scott has years of experience in educational training and conducts workshops in customer service, leadership, total quality management and team building through TQM Quest.  He has over 10 years experience living and working in Asia, primarily in business development. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration, a Masters Degree in Advanced Japanese Studies and an MBA.  He currently resides in Taipei, Taiwan.

Scott can be contacted through e-mail at



The search for better strategic models for business has crossed many academic borders. Business strategies derived from diverse fields such as philosophy, warfare, sports and religion have found new homes in books ensconced in the business sections of libraries around the world. Although managers seldom discuss these strategic lessons without prompting, mentioning strategies gleaned from a book such as "The Book of Five Rings" or "The Art of War" is certain to kick off a lively discussion regarding the role of other disciplines in the formation of corporate strategy.


This phenomenon should come as no surprise. After all, corporations are microcosms of society as a whole. Managers philosophize about the objectives and mission of their organization. They plot battle plans to combat competition. Similar to the world of sports, they rely on teamwork and leadership from highly skilled personnel to compete successfully. And the ethical issues faced by managers can be likened to ethical problems posed in many religious scriptures.


Accordingly, the world's current plight to rid the world of demented individuals who claim to kill in the name of religion also provides some valuable lessons for strategic management. In particular, a powerful lesson about teamwork and generating fervent commitment can be gleaned from this horrible episode in human history.


The Value of Fervent Belief


Somewhere within the confines of the Pentagon in Washington DC, strategy analysts are literally burning the midnight oil, digesting and interpreting intelligence information on issues related to military operations in Afghanistan. Their goal is to assist in rectifying a wrong that was done to them. Many are sleep deprived from long hours of commitment to the cause; but few would complain about the time spent on these activities.


Meanwhile, somewhere in Afghanistan, members of the Al Qaida terrorist faction are likely physically burning the midnight oil as they hole up in isolated caverns evaluating their options. For many of these individuals, the threat of imminent death and the unpleasantness of living rodent-like lives in dark caves is but a small price to pay in support of the cause they so strongly believe in.


History is replete with examples of similar dedication and commitment to a cause upheld during wartime. Warring sides often share the same fervent belief that what they are pursuing is right and just. People do not assume great risks and dedicate themselves to causes unless they do so with utter conviction that their actions are warranted and fully compatible with their beliefs. Did you uncover the lesson in all this horror? If not I'll reprint it for you: People do not assume great risks and dedicate themselves to causes unless they do so with utter conviction that their actions are warranted and fully compatible with their beliefs.


Commitment is Driven by Principles


In wartime conflicts, people generally take up arms for reasons of principle. Their principles may or may not be understandable to their enemies but the fact remains - war is a clash of principles. Often warring parties rally around axioms designed to reflect the principle-centered nature of the conflict. Terms such as "Holy War" and "Operation Enduring Freedom" are terms used to help people come together for a common cause which means something to them personally.


In strategic management a similar approach can be used to enlist the full commitment of workers. This is accomplished through a process which ends in the creation of a corporate value statement.


The Value Statement


The value statement is a declaration of shared values and principles around which workers can rally. It is a document which provides justification for workers to arrive at work each morning with a positive mindset. It shows workers how their time spent in the workplace supports the quest of cultivating traits that are important to them.


A simple value statement could be: "We dedicate ourselves to cultivating a positive attitude, to exhibiting proactive behavior, to dealing with others in an empathetic manner and to taking ownership over the success of all relationships."


How is a value statement created? Management must first bring all workers together to agree on values and principles which should govern attitudes and behaviors in the office. The logical rationale behind this is that people will not work on developing principles and values that are not personally important to them. If the values are consensus based, people will dedicate themselves to defending these positive principles. Although such a value-based visioning process takes place within the office structure, customers are also beneficial recipients of a value-centered culture.


Take for example the previous value statement. A group of people committed to positive, proactive, empathetic principles will be committed to this process with colleagues and customers alike.

Accordingly, not only will efforts toward fortifying this culture result in office harmony, customers would receive positive, proactive, empathetic service from this team. In short, all positive principles that people hold dear to their hearts also contribute to corporate profitability in the long run.


Naturally, managers who are considering harnessing the power of value statements, need to ensure they support the process through training and incentive programs. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot identify one training initiative and one performance management initiative that supports each principle in the value statement, the statement is nothing more than ink on paper.


But as all parties to any warring conflict have experienced, the results achieved by fostering commitment and dedication justify the outlay necessary to create such a climate.




Copyright 2001 by Scott Valentine. All rights reserved.

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