When Core Values Are Strategic: A book review by Bob Morris

When Values Are Strategic: How the Basic Values of Procter & Gamble Transformed Leadership at Fortune 500 Companies
Rick Tocqigny with Andy Butcher and the P&G Alumni Network
FT Press/A Pearson Imprint (2012)

A brilliant examination of the power and impact of core values that can transform individuals as well as organizations

With regard to the title of this book, I presume to suggest that core values always have strategic implications, for better or worse. If those values tolerate and thus condone incivility, for example, they will have a profound, negative impact on an organization’s efforts to achieve its strategic objectives. The reverse is also true. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company offers an excellent case in point. At every opportunity, it not only affirms but demonstrates each day that “we are ladies and gentlemen who are privileged to serve other ladies and gentlemen.” With regard to Southwest Airlines, retired chairman and CEO, Herb Kelleher, expressed its core values best when observing, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers take great care of our investors.”

With Andy Butcher, Rick Tocquigny provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel when explaining “how the basic values of Procter & Gamble transformed leadership at Fortune 500 Companies.” As is true of all other outstanding business books, this one is driven by research…but with a clever twist. More than 1,000 P&G alumni and current employees were surveyed. The detailed results are provided in section 9 of the Appendix (Pages 242-252). A total of 36 of the respondents are also quoted extensively within a narrative framework that consists of six Parts. In fact, a separate chapter is devoted to each contributor. The titles of the Parts correctly suggest recurring themes: sustaining industry leadership, applying core values for capability, core values and teamwork, core values drive vision, doing what is right [as well as doing it right], and changing lives.

The book concludes with the last theme and that is eminently proper, given the fact that core values can transform people who embrace them…and those people can then transform an organization, sometimes even a country. As former P&G chairman, president, and CEO, A.G. Lafley, explains in the Foreword, “The stories in this book celebrate the gift we were all given – core values that really work. And they show how robust focus on core values adds great enterprise value and value to your personal life. Core values at work can bring out more engagement, more fulfillment, better work-life balance, and long-term business and financial success for your organization, yourself, and the communities in which h you live and work.”

The book’s subtitle emphasizes leadership and that includes but is by no means limited to occupants of the C-suite. On the contrary, values-driven leadership is urgently needed in any organization, at all levels and in all areas of operation. As Tocquigny and most of the 36 contributors indicate, P&G’s basic values (e.g. honesty, fairness, tradition, trust, work ethic, mutual respect, and integrity) are embedded in its employees as well as those who relocated to other organizations where those same values also have had a beneficial impact. That is, these organizations were transformed by the vales-driven leadership of P&G alumni, regardless of their official title.

Although P&G is one of the largest and most complex companies as are most of the companies by which most of its alumni were later employed, almost all of the material in this book is relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be.  Because human beings are involved, no organization is perfect and none ever will be. That said, only human beings can bring core values to life and invest them with profound meaning through their behavior and, especially, in their relationships with others. I want to reiterate what I said earlier: Core values always have strategic implications, for better or worse. What do they say about your organization?

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