Who tells you when values aren't in line with strategy and vision? 

Dear customer 

Today I’m going to break one of the taboos of business.  You know, the one which says that that customer is always right.  It’s not an easy thing for me to do. Whether you are a brand-new customer or whether we have been working together for some period of time I have always worked hard to build a collaborative relationship which is mutually rewarding. 

I know how valuable your business is to you and I know the importance that you place on your own customers, your employees and your investors. And I want to play my part in helping you to deliver your business success; but before I can do so I have to be honest. There is an elephant in the room and its presence is hampering our endeavours. 

So in the interests of our future relationship I have to say that your values are wrong. Just hear me out. You have a strong vision of the future course of your company. The strategic aims which arise out of that vision are well thought out and coherent. But the values which you demonstrate in your organisation every day are simply not in tune with the vision or strategy. And unless you make a concerted effort to reset those values then success is always going to elude you. 

Yours in good faith 


How many times in business do we wish that we had written a similar letter to customers, suppliers or collaborative partners? How often do we see people and companies around us whose strategy and vision is quite simply let down by the way in which they behave every day? You know the sort of thing; the companies which proudly proclaim ‘our customers always come first’ and then make it patiently obvious through every interaction that what comes first is actually profit. And then there are the companies which boast that their new system is making it easier whereas the reality is that the customer has to go through convoluted hoops even to be heard. 

Oh yes, what about the organisations whose strategy is long-term strength but whose values are geared towards delivering short-term gain regardless of the long-term costs. Ditto employee engagement, or shareholder value, or sustainability, or community relations…. 

The list is endless and probably doesn’t need to be fully enumerated; we’ve seen enough scandals in recent times to be fully aware of the damage which can be caused when values go awry. As practitioner consultants it is our job to highlight these problems with our clients and to help them to reset the values in order to deliver the strategy. 

But it shouldn’t be simply up to us. The world is increasingly evolving towards a more collaborative model. Customers are now viewed as partners in success. However, true success will only come from a relationship which puts honesty and openness at its heart. If you have concerns about the way in which the vision is translated, if you have experienced values which run against the strategy, then you have to articulate them if your relationship is to mean anything. 

That may mean setting aside the traditional British reserve, not wanting to complain or to rock the boat, but building a relationship means being honest. And if you have any reservations ask yourself this. If you saw something going wrong and you did nothing to prevent it what does that say about your own values? 

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