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Friday, August 31, 2012

On the Importance of Business Values

I met a really interesting fellow yesterday, a great storyteller and a businessman. I learned a bit about something on how to value your products and how to pick your clients (pro tip: not all clients are equal). I guess the most interesting anecdote had to with the core values of Kone corporation.

Kone is one of those Finnish heavyweights well known all over the world. You have likely used one of their products yourself. They define themselves as "dedicated to people flow". In short, they produce elevators, escalators and automatic door solutions.

According to my source the current leadership of Kone has developed the company based on three distinct values: position, direction and openness. If you look at their current values page, you'll notice they haven't been phrased this bluntly. I think these three values manifest themselves better in their strategy.

What makes these specific three interesting in my opinion is that they seem like basic values each company should instill to their employees. These values are something that apply on macro level as well. A company should definitely be aware of its position on market and where it's headed (direction). Being open doesn't hurt either.

It is important to know your position in the company and how it contributes to the whole. In some cases an employee can even be thought to be an entrepreneur inside a company. Sometimes these folks are also known as intrapreneurs. This sort of thinking definitely has some serious implications on the role of an employee. Instead of being just a passive worker, there's something more. A sense of ownership and pride.

And then there's the concept of direction. A company and an individual has to know where they are headed. This will give meaning to effort. Each task performed takes the company closer to its goal.

Direction is set by vision. In Kone's case the vision is clear. They want to provide world class solutions to make people flow. All parts of Kone (machine in Finnish) are dedicated to this effort.

Openness is the vital ingredient that makes sure progress is possible. If you are struggling, it's better to struggle together rather than suffer alone. As lean principles have taught us, problems tend to cascade. Small issues lead to bigger ones when left unchecked. Openness is the ailment that helps us battle this problem.

Do you know the values of your business? If not, is there something you can do about it? If the employees don't know your company values, what's the point of having values at all?