Vision, Values, and Principles

By Steve Kane Updated on February 19th, 2019

Labor and work environments have continually changed since the dawn of employment. These topics are like just about any other aspect of the human experience in that they have changed more rapidly over the past century than any other period in history. Employment is no longer simply a means to put food on the table. It’s a path to personal fulfillment.

It seems that a great compensation package used to be the primary method to attract and reward people to do great work. As Dan Pink points out in his book, Drive, extrinsic rewards don’t produce lasting results. Intrinsic rewards drive us toward long-term fulfillment.

All of us have six basic human needs: consistency, variety, significance, love and belonging, growth, and contribution. These needs are listed in the sequence in which they must be met. Think of each need being the foundation or layer upon which the next need is built. The fulfillment of each need leads to the fulfillment of the next. If a lower level need isn’t met, higher level needs also won’t be met.

Organizations that have clearly defined their vision, values, and principles are more likely to find people who are innately driven to further the cause. A CBS journalist once asked a US Marine Corps recruiter if it was difficult to find people to enlist for a job that was among the lowest paid positions available and was not only physically and emotionally demanding, but also could be deadly. The recruiter replied that it wasn’t difficult at all to get people to enlist. The Marine Corps, he explained, has a very clear purpose and set of core values. Their purpose: “Until Every Battle is Won.” Their core values: “Honor, Courage and Commitment.” He needed only to find people who shared the Corps’ sense of purpose and core values and they would ask to sign up.

A compensation package helps us meet our need for consistency. Once the family is fed and safe, the bills are paid, and we have a sense of stability, we begin looking for more. Neither the paycheck nor the work being done is enough to satisfy us.

Simon Sinek talks about motivating people to take action with what he calls “The Golden Circle.” Start with why, then explain how, followed by what. An organization’s vision is “Why.” It explains its reason for existing—the reason people work there. Here are some examples.

“The enablers of global e-commerce.”- UPS

“Accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” – Tesla

“To fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling.” – Harley Davidson

Being part of an organization with a meaningful and shared sense of purpose appeals to our needs of significance, belonging, and contribution. The desire to contribute drives us to learn and improve.

Values and Principles

Values and principles let us know how we operate. They’re the rules of the game. If vision is the “Why” in Sinek’s Golden Circle, then values and principles are the “How.” They, like vision, let us know if we’re likely to meet our basic human needs within the organization. They can help people want to work there to make a genuine commitment to the cause of the organization.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

“Base your management decision on long term philosophy, even at the expense of short term financial goals.” – Toyota

“Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” – W. Edwards Deming

Ideally, the organization’s principles would address our basic needs so that we’re able to make the greatest contribution possible. It is leadership’s responsibility to get things done through other people. Leadership consistently living, communicating, and demonstrating the organization’s core values and principles is essential to this end.

Vision answers the question of why the organization exists. Values and principles address how the organization operates. Combined, they give the people within the organization clarity of purpose and defined boundaries so that they can not only work autonomously to complete tasks, but also invest the energy day after day to achieve the organization’s ideal state—without extrinsic reward or fear of punishment.

Here are some Gemba Academy resources on vision, values, and principles.

Motivation and behaviorCulture of Kaizen Course
Vision and missionHoshin Planning Course
An example of aligning with vision, values, and principles to improve organizational performance profitabilityBecoming a Lean Leader
Helping managers create their visionGA 148 | How to Create Your Vision with Paul HIll
Putting principles to workGA 054 | Five Guiding Principles with Jonathan Escobar Marin
Core principles of Lean thinkingLean Philosophy – Steve Kane
Living the organization’s principlesNot Just Words On the Wall
Principled leadershipGA 076 | The Courage to Lead with Simon Sinek

  1. Sid Joynson

    February 20, 2019 - 4:48 pm

    I think 3 V’s are needed to guide our activities to create our culture & define our true north in terms of direction and values..
    1) VISION, What is your purpose. What do you want to achieve and create?
    2) VALUES, moral, attitudinal, behavioural & numerical to guide, support & focus your vision.
    3) VECTORS, the direction of your activities to make your Vision & Values a reality.
    The key to success is to ensure the 3V’s are shared by all your people, & everyone knows their team’s & their personal roles/behaviour & goals to achieve them. I think 3V’s thinking was another element that was missed when Lean was extracted from TPS.
    If we add 5 P’s to the 3 V’s we have the complete picture.
    There are 3P’s that should guide our personal activities & performance; Purpose – Achieve the 3 V’s, Passion – believe you can do it & Persistence – keep on keeping on. Organisational performance requires two additional P’s; Practised by all our People — ‘Purpose, Passion, Persistence – Practised by all our People. Job done!
    Leaders must define the Purpose, create the Passion, support the Persistence & ensure all their People are engaged in the Practise.
    When engaging our people we must involve three areas. The Head, Heart and the Hands.
    They then become the 3 H’s.
    The HEAD – to think, dream & conceive.
    The HEART – to feel & believe.
    The HANDS- to take action & achieve. – .
    “The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.” Jacob Bronowski – author ‘Ascent of Man’.

    Our ultimate goal is to engage the Heads, Hearts & Hands of all our people to create an organisation* that can compete successfully against any competitor, now and in the future. It must also be a secure challenging, fulfilling & enjoyable/fun place to work.

    The role of the management team is to create a physically and emotionally secure and rewarding environment to facilitate this engagement.

  2. Douglas Cassidy

    March 14, 2019 - 11:58 am


    Who is the source of the 6 human needs pyramid?



    • Steve Kane

      March 14, 2019 - 12:44 pm

      Hi Doug,

      I created the pyramid from my learnings from Maslow, Robbins, and others.



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