Culture & Values:
Why You Also Need Guiding Principles

It’s common for leadership teams to focus heavily on the strategic planning process in their planning workshops with a view to being able to articulate their Vision and Mission, Strategy and OKR Roadmap

What is often overlooked is their Values and Guiding Principles. Their symbiotic relationship has often been the differentiator between companies that merely exist and those that excel.

Successful companies not only recognize the need to do the exercises that decide on what their values and guiding principles are, they live by them, reinforce and measure them.

Written by | Co-Founder of ZOKRI

Values: The Heartbeat of Companies

Values are the lifeblood of a company’s ethos. Values are the core beliefs or desired qualities that guide the behavior and actions of an organization’s members. They represent what is important to the company at its core. Their characteristics are:

  • Broad in nature.
  • Typically, enduring and unchanging over time.
  • Act as the organization’s moral compass.

Common Value examples: Integrity, respect, innovation, excellence.

Apple’s Values

Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion and Diversity, Privacy, Supplier Responsibility.


Force Multipliers

Download a full preview of Force Multipliers, written by ZOKRI co-founder Matt Roberts.

Force Multipliers takes you through a revolutionary Business Operating System (BOS) to overcome growth plateaus and supercharge scaling efforts. A blend of practical strategies and real-world insights designed to streamline operations and enhance strategic agility.

Starbucks Values

Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, Delivering our very best in all we do, Acting with courage, and Holding ourselves accountable.

Nike Values

Community, Diversity, Inclusion.

Microsoft’s Values

Innovation, Trustworthy Computing, Diversity and Inclusion, Corporate Social Responsibility.

Coca-Cola’s Values

Leadership, Passion, Integrity, Accountability, Collaboration, Quality.

These brands exemplify how values, when authentically embedded, can manifest in actions, decisions, and brand perception.

Guiding Principles

Guiding Principles: Guiding Everyday Actions

While values depict ‘what’ a company stands for, guiding principles detail the ‘how’. Several global companies have recognized this distinction:

Amazon is an exemplary model. Beyond its behemoth presence in the global market, it’s a case study in corporate culture done right. Leadership Principles like “Think Big” and “Bias for Action” provide clear, actionable guidance to its employees. They aren’t just lofty statements but are intertwined in day-to-day actions, from boardroom strategy discussions to warehouse operations.

Google: The famous “Ten things we know to be true” serve as Google’s guiding principles, including “Focus on the user and all else will follow” and “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.”

Tesla: With principles like “Do the impossible” and “Constantly innovate”, Tesla pushes boundaries in electric mobility and energy solutions.

These companies’ guiding principles act as the strategic compass, steering the operational course aligned with their overarching values.

Leadership Trend: Merging Vision With Values & Guiding Principles

This union of values and guiding principles isn’t a fleeting corporate trend. It’s a leadership evolution. Recognizing the need for not just having a vision but also explicitly outlining its realization has been a transformative shift.

This has led consultancies, including the likes of McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, to emphasize the dual importance of values and guiding principles for sustainable company success.

The KPI Scorecard: Measuring Progress

Yet, even with values and guiding principles in place, how does one gauge progress? This is where a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) scorecard plays its role.

Individual Teams: Crafting Their Unique Compass

The rationale for a company-wide compass is clear. But should individual teams within a company have their unique set of guiding principles? Unequivocally, yes.

Every team within an enterprise, from marketing to finance, has its nuances. While the company-wide principles will still apply, teams will benefit from a tailored set of directives that cater to their specific challenges and objectives. It’s akin to having a general map of a country but then using a detailed city map to navigate local roads.

As part of the FAST Transformation strategic planning process we recommend teams set their own Vision, Guiding Principles and KPI Scorecards. This sets them up for the OKR planning process – a key competency we coach as part of the toolkit. 

We also platform this best-practice in the ZOKRI Software, keeping teams strategically aligned, goal focused, productive and high-achieving.

Cultivate A Company Culture That Follows Your Values & Guiding Principles 

When it comes to culture, your ‘why’ is the recognition that culture is the lifeblood of your company. It’s the collective mindset and attitudes that dictate how you operate, how you treat each other, and how you approach your work. It’s the invisible force that can either drive you towards your vision or pull you away from it.

Edgar Schein, a leading authority on company culture, tells us that culture is not something we have; it is something we are. It’s not an external entity that we can manipulate at will; it’s the shared experiences and values that bind us together. So, when we invest in culture, we invest in our people and our future.

How Do You Create This Culture?

Firstly, you need to acknowledge and understand the existing culture. This involves looking at your shared assumptions, beliefs, and values – your ‘way of doing things.’

Next, you need to clarify your vision and values – your ‘why’ and ‘how.’ These form the bedrock of your desired culture. They provide the direction and the guidelines for behavior.

Then, we need to align your guiding principles with your vision and values. This is where leadership plays a vital role. Leaders need to ‘walk the talk,’ demonstrating the behaviors that reflect your values and drive you towards your vision.

Lastly, you need to reinforce the desired culture through consistent messaging, education, rewards, and recognition. This helps to embed the desired behaviors and attitudes in your daily routines.

What Happens When You Invest In Creating  A Culture With Values & Guiding Principles?

You build an company that is more than just a workplace. You create communities that are driven by a shared purpose and values. You foster an environment where people feel valued, motivated, and aligned with your companies vision. This not only improves performance and productivity, it also enhances employee satisfaction and retention.

Investing in culture is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s the foundation that determines whether you merely survive or truly thrive. So let’s heed Edgar Schein’s wisdom and invest in creating a culture that drives us towards a ‘why.’

Symptoms Of A Potential Company Culture Issue

Let’s start by looking at how you might be able to spot that you might have a culture issue. Common symptoms are:

  • Missed KPIs and Objectives and Key Results, and projects are not getting delivered

  • Business in not growing

  • Talent is leaving

  • Lots of finger pointing and blame going on

  • When people say they’re going to do something they often don’t follow through

Of course you can also look at how high performing teams work and see which aspects you think are present in your teams as well. Or use specialist tools like ZOKRI to track your culture and spot issues as they arise at the team or company level.

Do All High Performing Teams Have A Similar Culture?

After four-years visiting and researching successful groups Daniel Coyle found that there are three skills that groups need to acquire in order to perform at their full potential.

  1. Build Safety – Belonging & Identity
  2. Share Vulnerability – Mutual Risk, Trust & Cooperation
  3. Establish Purpose – Shared Goals & Values

But before you can develop these you need leaders that are motivated to want to be the change in order to be the best you can be, to want to learn because you won’t have the answers, and willing to do the work to change – change is hard.

Building A Psychologically Safe Culture

Teams no longer exist in clearly-bounded groups, they are more dynamic with cross functional teams and collaboration being normal. Companies need to be able to communicate and coordinate across differences like expertise, status and geography.

Amy Edmondson’s work on Psychological Safety and shared in her great book The Fearless Organization has found that teams also need to be able to work without interpersonal fear. Team members can be themselves, participate fully, display candor, and don’t hold back from sharing ideas and opinions. The working environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking.

What’s more, high levels of Psychological Safety have been able to explain the differences in performance between different workplaces with the key benefits being:

  • Mistakes are reported quickly and quick corrective action is taken

  • Big ideas are shared and genuine innovation is commonplace

  • Staff feel safe, heard and valued which improves productivity and is a big reason to stay with a company

In her book, Amy Edmondson describes how people constantly calculate the risk of speaking-up, both consciously as well as subconsciously. The result of feeling that there is a risk involved in admitting a mistake, pointing out an issue, or even sharing an idea, is the team and organization’s performance suffers and eventually we also become dissatisfied.

In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek points out similar issues people face when people don’t feel safe, and advantages teams have when they do.

Without a Circle of Safety, people are forced to spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other. It’s the company we keep, the people around us, who will determine where we invest our energy. The more we trust that the people to the left of us and the people to the right of us have our backs, the better equipped we are to face the constant threats from the outside together. Only when we feel we are in a Circle of Safety we pull together as a unified team.” Simon Sinek

Really Value What You Are Told

If ideas and innovation is the lifeblood of a company it follows we want and need employees to share their knowledge and ideas freely. If there is a reluctance or a perceived risk associated with communications then you’re not getting to hear everything on offer, and the chances are some of what you’ve missed would have been game-changing.

Now think about how people are asked to share what they are thinking, the systems, processes for capturing, debating and considering what is being offered, and the level of follow-up and feedback offered.

Is there a chance that opinions and ideas are quickly shut down, not really considered and quickly forgotten, no matter how good they were? Now imagine how that feels and how you might quickly become more reluctant in the future to share?

Now imagine that feedback and new ideas are treated as assets with material value. Gold amongst the bedrock of the day-to-day. What would that signal and how would people behave as a result?

Once an idea is shared for example, perhaps the person sharing is given time to write a short and well structured proposal on the idea for consideration in the next meeting, like Amazon does with their famous 6-pager, and McKinsey do with their Minto Pyramid Principle.

Help Teams Become Really Good At Providing Constructive Feedback

If you want a company full of high performing teams you need to make the provision of constructive candid feedback normal positive working practice.

It has been observed in Pixar’s Braintrust that when people are safe enough to “contribute insight, opinions and suggestions, the knowledge in the room increases exponentially”. You literally “think smarter”.

If this is a behavior you want to adopt you could codify it as part of your culture in ZOKRI and colleagues could recognize each other for “useful, constructive feedback”.

Make Failure A Much Safer Experience

Rather than accept failure, Psychologically Safe teams seek to understand failure and learn from it. Failing rather than causing fear has to trigger a learning process like a retrospective, and be a positive experience.

The fact that when teams or individuals are brave enough to set the bar high, work really hard before working out that the initiative was not going to work and stop (failing fast), nobody is going to lose their job if you fail needs to be clear.

If this is a behavior you want to adopt you could codify it as part of your culture in ZOKRI and colleagues could recognize each other for “trying hard, failing fast and sharing learnings”. Others might then applaud this, the opposite of what one might think would or should happen.

Listen Carefully, Be Humble

In her book, Amy Edmondson tells the story of Eileen Fisher, a lady that created a $500m + revenue company from not knowing, listening, learning fast and not being afraid to be vulnerable.

It turns out that these traits are also present in Psychologically Safe teams. You want your people to all contribute, carefully listen to each other, and when someone does not know or understand something, say so so that they might learn.

If this is a behavior you want to adopt you could codify it as part of your culture in ZOKRI and colleagues could recognize each other for “taking the time to teach me today”.

If you would like to see how ZOKRI’s suite of features could help you create your own high performing culture, book a demo and take a trial.

  • Building a thriving company culture is how you ensure your organization thrives, without a strong culture the risk of failure in the long-term is incredibly high.
  • The importance of purpose, safety, clarity, transparency and personal development and self-actualization are consistent themes and where high performing teams appear to excel.
  • Culture management is a process by which leaders codify, systemize and operationalize a thriving culture using a variety of tools like presentation decks, handbooks and software like ZOKRI.
Vision, Values, Guiding Principles & More

Values & Guiding Principles Are Reinforced & Measured 

In addition to being a home for your Vision, Mission, Winning Aspiration, Strategy and KPI Scorecards, ZOKRI has class-leading culture features that ensure your values and guiding principles are lived.


Discover A Strategic Planning Process That Uses OKRs To Drive Growth

The book takes you through an 8 step strategic planning process that helps you create and articulate your winning strategy, set goals using the OKR framework, create a launch event, and form a weekly execution rhythm that keeps everyone on track.

Free Training Sample

Executive Briefing On OKRs

This is a 15 minute executive briefing on what is needed to successfully use Objectives & Key Results (OKR) to deliver your strategy, increase performance, & improve culture.


The Concepts & Ideas Used To Create & Manage High Performing Companies

Take a journey through the business concepts and ideas that are the hallmarks of high performing companies and teams. Choose the ones that are right for you. Platform your choices easily and cohesively in ZOKRI.