YOU MIGHT THINK that this is a flippant question, but I’m serious. Our values DO change during the course of our lifetime, so it’s quite possible that a shift will occur which causes you to change the values of your business.
A common shift comes when you figure out that your business plan just isn’t going to work anymore. Even if it was successful at one point, you now know that you’re headed for failure. It’s time to pivot your strategy and take a different approach.
But this doesn’t necessarily imply any change to your values. It may totally change WHAT you’re doing and HOW you’re doing it, but not WHY.
In fact, this is one of the big tests of whether something is a “deep value” (as I define it) or something more on the surface.
On the other hand, you may well have a change of the WHY. Maybe it’s a Road To Damascus experience, or a different kind of awakening. For example, people often see a shift of values when a battle with cancer causes them to face their own mortality.
I’ve seen examples of where an awakening stems from the success of a business itself. A local company started out wanting to create an awesome employee culture – a deep value – but then found out that this led them to explore new levels of philanthropy. They’re now an important contributor to all kinds of causes in our area, and have embraced this as a part of their role. It’s not a wrenching change, by any means, but it’s an important development of their corporate values.
One of the most challenging tests comes when the company founder retires. I could argue that Walmart did a fantastic job of sticking to their core values when Sam Walton retired, while Microsoft continues to see turmoil from the loss of Bill Gates. Apple’s loss of Steve Jobs is still a story in progress, I believe, despite heroic attempts by Steve to ground the company culture before his death.
It takes a lot of hard work, over many years, to cement deep values into a company. The larger it becomes, the more it becomes driven by the demands of the market and shareholders, the harder it is to stay true.