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Hauser: Hard core values

Jon Hauser

In 1982, Tylenol, made by Johnson and Johnson, was the leading pain-killer medicine. They held 35 percent of the market share. Sadly, there were seven mysterious deaths via poisoning within a short time in the Chicago area.

Detectives put the details together, realizing the source of the poisoning was from extra-strength Tylenol purchased from five different Chicago stores. Someone had tampered with the product and laced the tablets with potassium cyanide.

CEO James Burke was faced with a major crisis and a major decision. How would they communicate this threat to the general public and what action would they take to protect people? Burke was very clear about what to do. He yanked every bottle of Tylenol off the shelf across America.

This decision cost Johnson and Johnson $100 million. Their market share dropped from 35 percent to 7 percent. He put 2,500 employees on the job of alerting the public as to what had happened. Because of his aggressive communication plan, the Tylenol crisis was the headline news story for 6 weeks on every station. Burke contacted the chief of each network’s news division to keep them informed. He met with the directors of the FBI and the FDA.

Other companies have demonstrated extremely poor judgment in the way they handled defective product incidents: Coca-Cola mismanaged the “contaminated can” incident in Europe in 1999; Intel initially failed to respond quickly to the calculation errors embedded in its Pentium chip in 1994, and Firestone initially refused to accept responsibility for SUV roll-overs caused by poorly manufactured tires in 2000.

But Burke tackled the problem head-on. How did he do so? Well, Johnson and Johnson established core values when the company was started in 1887, and one of their core values was: “The company is responsible first to its customers, then to its employees, the community and the stockholders, in that order.” And so Burke simply made a decision from this core value statement.

The result? By the end of 1983 extra-strength Tylenol was back to holding 35 percent of the market, and in 2003, Fortune magazine named Burke as one of history’s 10 greatest CEOs.

Core values are consistent, passionate convictions that determine your priorities, drive your decisions and are demonstrated by your behavior. As a Christian household, my family and I align our core values with God’s word, the Bible. Our Hauser core values are: be courageous, embrace change, have fun, grow as Godly leaders, be determined and love well. The core values of Prairie Heights Community Church are passionate, loyal, growing, embrace the unexpected and authentic.

Healthy organizations identify what values are hardcore, and those values become a key attribute of the culture of that organization. Patrick Lencioni in The Advantage writes, “Values are critical because they define an organization’s personality.” Core values bring clarity, providing a framework for building a foundation for your life and legacy. Anxiety, discouragement and conflict result when our values are not in alignment with those we live or work with. You do not need people around you who think like you think, but you must have people who value what you value. So, what are non-negotiable core values for your life? Your family? Your career?

God bless you. See you next Sunday!