Core Values: Not Just a Pretty Face

Abhishek Paul
3 min readFeb 28, 2018

Core values aren’t sexy anymore — Dilbert and Silicon Valley (the TV show) have ensured that. It’s become more of an aesthetic fixture adorning company websites and office halls (and restrooms!) — more about looking / sounding cool than meaningful.

Worse still it is usually decided by a select group — typically the leadership team (who go by the fashionable companies they’ve visited or the latest blog they’ve read) and the HR office (you know that team that sends you emails). This is then rolled out like a political party’s election campaign and thrust on the employees through various bombardment / indoctrination tactics (ie evangelization initiatives).

When all is said and done and the dust settles, everyone gets back to their daily routine.

So if nothing changes, why bother? Why not just let people get on with their work?

Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) highlights a key component of great companies and that is their ability to build / hold on to the fundamentals (core values + culture) irrespective of fluctuations in context / results.

At OrangeScape, we do not want to take the lazy option of allowing the externals (quarterly results, new hires, leadership change) to dictate our DNA, it should be the other way around. This is where core values become critical. It gives us a common language to build on as well as being a simple decision making heuristic.

Assumption: Core values cannot be invented / transplanted, they have to be discovered. This means that these values are already present and valued by the employees — no need to get “buy-in”. You hire / promote those predisposed to company values.

Discovery is not an event, but a long hard journey. This goes against the quarterly or even annual targets on which most departments / companies run, a reason why they short circuit the values formulation process.

The common excuses I’ve heard are: It’s too late, We’re too big, The values have been decided already, The dog ate my values, etc. All are variations of lazy BS. Any team can come up with their core values and live them out — who’s stopping you?

I will share our journey from “discovery” to “living it” in an upcoming blog.