Core Values

Over the course of the last few months I have been evaluating what things I care about professionally.  It’s hard, if not impossible, to be not influenced by my personal values in this effort.  As a Christian, what that means is that in all things I do, I am striving to glorify God through my actions.  A non-Christian mantra I have inherited is “Do as little harm as possible, and uplift all beings.”  These are similar in intent, despite the reasons.

With that in mind, I have been evaluating the following values and statements:

Continuous Quality Improvement

Being as good as I was yesterday is where I want to start each morning.  Improving on that is where I want to end my day.  Even if I was to be the best in the industry, my measurement of quality has to always be moving the bar forward.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Note that I didn’t write, perfection.  Perfection isn’t possible in this lifetime.  Instead we should always be striving for IMPROVEMENT, because no matter how good your quality IS today, it can always be better in some way shape form.

Innovation

To always be looking to improve on quality, also begets a need to always be innovative in the approach to doing so.  As new problems emerge, so do new solutions.  Innovation doesn’t just mean the creation of new and unique things.  Sometimes it’s just a unique way to combine existing things.  There is a measured difference between re-inventing the wheel and finding an entirely new use for one.

Innovation also can’t just be thought of in terms of success (though that’s important), it should also be thought of risk.  As an individual, being innovative means I am likely to screw up a bunch.  I might invest in a path that bears no fruit.  So what?  If you are learning, that is of huge value.  Just be careful with where you invest in innovation.  It –might- not be the right time.

Craftsmanship

Every company exists for a purpose.   Every employee of that company is a part of that purpose and vision.  As such, a dedicated and deliberate attention needs to be placed on the products that we each individually make.  You should be proud of whatever it is you do, even if it’s to flip burgers.  In all things you make, it should be the best you’re capable of, or all you’re doing is hurting yourself and your company.

In my martial studies we talk about this as life and death in every instant.  That isn’t to say that you should live each moment as if your life is on the line.  Instead, it’s to recognize that each moment might be your last.  If you DID die right now, could you be content with how you spent your last breath?  The same should be true of the company as a whole as well.

Customer Collaboration

Work is relational just as much as it is functional.  In fact, working with people is far better than working despite them.  Collaboration between each other, not just the customer, is critical to success.  Why?  In short, no matter how smart you may feel you are, people are going to not only know different but some may in fact know better.  The process of creation has a need for temperament with others.  Your eyes cannot see it all.

This is frankly one of the hardest parts of it all.  Communication is a real sunnofagun.  Being able to authentically partner with others is messy.  You might step on toes, you might hurt feelings.  It takes a huge deal of humility, care, and honesty to truly collaborate.  It also requires a great deal of self confidence.  Throughout this process you have to have a good sense of who you are and what you believe.  Trust me, with out that measurement you are going to be thrown to the wind.

Empowerment of Employees

Every person should have a feeling of ownership of what they do.  That cannot be artificial.  To foster that spirit in people who work for you, you have to trust they are competent, back them up on their decisions, and listen to them when the tell you what they need.  They also need to trust that for themselves.  Most people want to be the master of their own destiny to some degree.  You’d be surprised what they’d accomplish if you enabled and supported them to so.

Management has to have faith that their people can do what they say.  That faith, however should always be tempered with doubt.  Knowing a persons strength’s and weaknesses are critical to knowing how and with what you can empower a person.  That requires deliberate training, focused measurements and some time.  Throwing a person into a situation w/o having done some of those things is foolhardy.

Avoiding Complacency

The more you know about what “well” is (see “Continuous Quality Improvement”), the more it needs to grow.  Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper wrote a book entitled “The art of the rifle”.  In this book he talks about the difficulty of mastery.  In short, he essentially says that the as you learn and grow it changes the way your eyes look upon a situation.  As such, definitions of “good” are often redefined throughout this process.  Mastery is hard to achieve (maybe impossible), because the bar is lifted and altered as you grow.

Complacency is the slow death that ignores this reality and keeps doing the status quo.  What was good yesterday might not be good today.  As you grow, you should be re-evaluating the things you do at the lowest level and looking for improvements.  If you can’t find any, you aren’t paying attention.  I personally re-read a book on the c# language spec every year.  I have ALWAYS found it to be of value.

Reinvesting in the Company

If the company’s most valuable assets are it’s people, it makes huge sense to me to continue to strive to improve them.  This comes in a variety of forms; training, presentations, types of work you put them in, people you couple to work together, etc… Growth of the individuals only makes sense as the primary means to improve the whole.

That said it’s not a one way street, it’s an investment.  The investment has to be tempered with what makes sense for the company.  Not everyone is going to be a good fit, and as such how you invest and trust in them should change over time.  In fact, promotions are a great measurement for this.  The higher up a person is in a company the more responsible, trust worthy and accountable they should be (and have demonstrated).  Promotion’s don’t just relate to pay and extra work to do… they represent the things you value within your company.

These are just some thoughts, surely not the end of everything I think of them.  Over time I am likely to revisit and expand on this, but I think this a good start.  I wrote this for me, but as always your feedback is encouraged.

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