Can You Pass “The Enron Value Test?”

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“Probably not,” according to one business expert. As the second week of the Skilling-Lay trial starts, Tom Connellan, a New York Times Bestselling author and frequent business keynote speaker suggests it’s time for corporate leaders to take a look at how their corporate values stack up against those of Enron. Here’s Connellan’s test.

1. Make a copy of your corporate values, a copy of Enron’s corporate values circa 2001 (see below), and a copy of corporate value statements from three other companies. Remove the company names from all documents.

2. Take these lists to a random cross section of your employees and ask, “ Which of these corporate value statements best describes our company’s actions?” “Which least describes our company?”

3. Also ask several suppliers.

4. Also ask several customers.

5. Each time, as seeming afterthought, ask each group “By the way, do you happen to recognize which – if any – of these is actually ours?”

Chances are that “none of your suppliers, none of your customers, and very, very few of your employees will be able to tell the difference between Enron’s corporate values, your corporate values, and the values of any other random company.”

What does this mean to you? “Three things,” says Connellan.

1. Most corporate value statements are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

2. Actions are what count – not what’s on paper.

3. If there’s a disconnect between what you say is important and what people do, you need to fix that right away. Rather than building a series of rules, build a series of examples. People learn from examples and role models – not from a list of words.

“It’s all about alignment,” insists Connellan, “what you say you want, what you really want, and what you reward all have to be in alignment. Too many companies say they want adherence to corporate values from everyone, mean they want adherence on most things most of the time, and then end up rewarding employees who perform well but don’t adhere to corporate values. That sends the message that the official corporate values don’t matter. Once that happens, you run the risk of ending up in a Federal courtroom trying to describe your actions in a more positive light than the prosecutor.”

About Tom Connellan. A former Program Director at the University of Michigan’s Executive Education Program, Connellan is a New York Times Bestselling author, consultant, and keynote speaker whose clients include FedEx, Dell, ADP, GE, Marriott, and Neiman-Marcus. No stranger to the firing line of business, he also started a service company in the health care field and built it into a network of 1200 instructors serving 300 hospitals and most of the Fortune 500 firms.

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Enron Values circa 2001

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We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another… and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.


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Karen Revill


Tom Connellan



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