What Is Your Organization's Core Ideology?

Information Outlook, January 2001 | Go to article overview

What Is Your Organization's Core Ideology?


During a staff meeting last month, the staff at SLA International Headquarters spent some time considering what drives the organization. We weren't looking for the external factors; we were determining the internal factors that make our organizational clock tick.

The impetus for this discussion was a book written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. In Built to Last, Collins and Porras shed light on the qualities and values of visionary companies. Several threads were identical in all of the visionary companies researched by the authors. Most prominent was the presence of a core ideology that firmly rooted the company's direction and focus for the future.

The American Heritage Dictionary, third edition, defines ideology is defined as "the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, a group, a class, or a culture." In Built to Last, Collins and Porras note that a core ideology is made up of a set of core values and a purpose that drive an individual or organization forward, a set of principles that guide them to success and through tough times.

Core Values: An organization's essential and enduring tenets--a small set of general guiding principles; not to be confused with specific cultural or operating practices; not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.

Purpose: An organization's fundamental reasons for existence beyond just making money--a personal guiding star on the horizon; not to be confused with specific goals or business strategies.

Visionary companies are inclined to function with a foundation steeped in their core ideology. It need not be considered reasonable or acceptable in the eyes of shareholders or customers or the public. It does not change direction to follow trends or fads. And market conditions are not allowed to affect core ideologies. In fact, most core ideologies make no mention whatsoever of the products, services, or markets served by their respective organizations.

Is there a "right" ideology? NO!! In Built to Last, Collins and Porras found no "specific ideological content essential to being a visionary company. Rather, they found that the authenticity of the ideology and the extent to which a company attains consistent alignment with the ideology counts more than the content of the ideology. …

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