Learning From LEGO: Core Values Must Define Your Workplace Culture

Harvard Business School recently issued a new business case study on The LEGO Group, makers of the famous toy plastic building blocks.

I’m sure most of us recall LEGO’s with great fondness (except, perhaps, for the parents who step on forgotten blocks in their bare feet in the middle of the night).

In its nearly century-long history, LEGO transitioned from family leadership to external leaders, and found itself in need of not one, but two turnarounds. It’s the driving reason for the second turnaround that got my attention:

The LEGO Group had also gotten too far away from the core values it had been building on for the better part of a century. The toymaker found itself needing to turn around its turnaround.”

The core values at LEGO

What are those core values? A careful reading of the article on the business case study points to several:

  1. Very high quality products.
  2. Cautious, slow, steady growth.
  3. Focus on narrow, interchangeable product set
  4. Informed innovation, not unconstrained creativity.

I’m sure there are more, and these are different from the company’s brand values (Imagination, Creativity, Fun, Learning, Caring, Quality).

Balancing strategy and culture

I encourage you to read the business case study through the lens of the brand values. When you do, you begin to see how the external brand values play into the business strategy, but certainly do not overwhelm it. And, it’s in this delicate balance that business success occurs.

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Your core values define the culture of your organization. They also inform your strategy and how you move forward as an organization. Culture and strategy must be in balance, together.

Are culture and strategy in balance in your organization?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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