Abeo’s Core Ideology Development model is based on the work of Jim Collins (from the books, Good to Great and Built to Last) and Drs. Kaplan and Norton (Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Mapping). Their combined work has helped thousands of people and organizations improve performance.

What is Core Ideology?

Core Ideology consists of four components;

  1. Purpose – The organizations reason for being. Why it exists.
  2. Values – Never changing foundational principles guiding decision making and action.
  3. Vision – The future picture of the organization in 10-15 years.
  4. Mission – What the organization does for who, in alignment with it’s values, to achieve the vision.

Why codify Core Ideology?

Core Ideology statements guide the forward progress of an organization, everything that a company does, down to the smallest detail. It is both a road-map and a guidebook.

The bottom line benefit of discovering and adhering to a Core Ideology and creating a codified Vision and Mission is superior performance. Research on thousands of companies conducted by Jim Collins shows that organizations with well defined and executed Core Ideology and Vision outperformed their peers many many times over.

A defined Core Ideology provides a clear set of direction that everyone in the organization can look to and make decisions based on.

Do we want to be great?
This may sound trite, who doesn’t want to build a great company or organization? Many people, it turns out, because they have not consciously decided to do so. Plus, it takes extraordinary discipline, and few people are willing to be that disciplined.

Once the decision has been made to become a great company or organization there is a proven, step-by-step process for getting there. This information is a first step in that process.

How to define Core Ideology?

The following are some thoughts on developing your own Core Ideology.

Core Ideology Discovery

You do not create or set Core Ideology. You discover Core Ideology. You do not deduce it by looking at the external environment. You understand it by looking inside. Ideology has to be authentic. You cannot fake it. Discovering Core Ideology is not an intellectual exercise.

The process of discovery Core Ideology itself is collaborative. Each team member considers their own thoughts on the organization’s Purpose, Values, Vision and Mission. Those thoughts are collected through surveys and then presented, discussed, refined and selected in group breakout sessions, consolidated within a Mars team and finalized by senior leadership.

Core Ideology Inverted Pyramid

From a big picture standpoint the overall model that we are working on consists of the following hierarchy;

  • Purpose> Values> Vision > Mission  > Strategy > Objectives > Measures > Targets > Initiatives > Tasks
  • Core Ideology
    • Purpose: The companies reason for existing
    • Values: The foundational core of the organization that would apply regardless of business
    • Vision: Where the company is going, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal 10-20 years out
    • Mission: Vivid description of what you do for who
  • Strategy: Big picture of how you will do it
    • Objectives: Tactical operations that will implement the Strategy
    • Measures: What is measured to meet the goals
    • Targets: What the goal is
    • Initiatives: Projects undertaken to meet the goalTasks: Things done in an initiative

For this post we will be discussing just Core Ideology.

Core Values

Core Values are the guiding principles that make decision making easy. “Does this align with our Core Values?”

The secret is to work from the individual to the organization. People involved in articulating the core values need to answer several questions: What core values do you personally bring to your work? (These should be so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they were rewarded.)

What would you tell your children are the core values that you hold at work and that you hope they will hold when they become working adults? If you awoke tomorrow morning with enough money to retire for the rest of your life, would you continue to live those core values?

What core values are currently adhered to within the organization?

Can you envision them being as valid for you 100 years from now as they are today? Would you want to hold those core values, even if at some point one or more of them became a competitive disadvantage? If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, what core values would you build into the new organization regardless of its industry?

The last three questions are particularly important because they make the crucial distinction between

enduring core values that should not change and practices and strategies that should be changing all the time.


Why does your organization exist? That is, what is it’s purpose for being?

Many people when confronted with this question will provide an obvious answer, “to make money”.

That answer is not wrong. It is, however, only beneficial to the investors in the organization. What about everyone else involved, such as customers, employees and the community that the organization is part of?

A Core Ideology based purpose goes beyond just making money. The Good to Great companies studied in Jim’s book were not motivated by making money. although they made more of it, many times more, than their peers and the overall market. There was more to it than making money. What?

Peter Drucker wrote about purpose this way, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

Purpose is what drives us. The purpose of writing an overall purpose statement is to establish the foundation of our reason for anything to exist, person, organization, meeting, building etc… A purpose is not a goal. It is the reason for driving to our goals. It is the starting line, not the finishing line, an unachievable force. A purpose statement is a WHY statement, why we or an organization exists and why we take action.

The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder — waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.

-Thomas Carlyle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Carlyle

Purpose is what gives life a meaning. – Charles Perkhurst

I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.

-Og Mandino (American Author) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Og_Mandino

Life without a purpose is a languid, drifting thing; every day we ought to review our purpose, saying to ourselves, ‘This day let me make a sound beginning, for what we have hitherto done is naught!’

-Thomas Kempis (Medieval Monk 1380-1471) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_%C3%A0_Kempis

Sample Core Purposes

Wal-Mart: To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people

Nike: To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors

Cargill: To improve the standard of living around the world

McKinsey & Company: To help leading corporations and governments be more successful

Walt Disney: To make people happy

Mary Kay Cosmetics: To give unlimited opportunity to women


Vision is a term that is sometimes difficult to quantify. This process provides a defined way define an organization’s Vision, the envision future. It consists of two parts: a 10-to-30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal.

collins-changeJim Collins’ research found that visionary companies often use bold missions – or what they call BHAGs (pronounced BEE-hags and shorthand for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals)–as a powerful way to stimulate progress.

All companies have goals. But there is a motivating difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge–such as climbing Mount Everest. A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the  goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.

A BHAG engages people – it reaches out and grabs them. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.

People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation.

For example, NASA’s 1960s moon mission didn’t need a committee of wordsmiths to spend endless hours turning the goal into a verbose, impossible-to-remember mission statement. The goal itself was so easy to grasp–so compelling in its own right – that it could be said 100 different ways yet be easily understood by everyone.

BHAG–a vision-level BHAG that applies to the entire organization and requires 10 to 30 years of effort to complete. Setting the BHAG that far into the future requires thinking beyond the current capabilities of the organization and the current environment.

Vision Development

Vision development is about envisioning the future. In Jim’s model there are two parts: a a 10-to-30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. An envisioned future is not about predicting, it is about creating. It does not exist yet.

What is your audacious goal? What drives you and your team to reach the highest possible heights?

Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals. 

BHAG that applies to the entire organization and requires 10 to 30 years of effort to complete. Setting the BHAG that far into the future requires thinking beyond the current capabilities of the organization and the current environment. Indeed, inventing such a goal forces an executive team to be visionary, rather than just strategic or tactical.

A BHAG should not be a sure bet – it will have perhaps only a 50% to 70% probability of success – but the organization must believe that it can reach the goal anyway. A BHAG should require extraordinary effort and perhaps a little luck.  Companies need an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress toward an envisioned future.

Think in terms of four broad BHAG categories:

  1. target BHAGs
  2. common-enemy BHAGs
  3. role-model BHAGs
  4. internal-transformation BHAGs

Set a big vision for your organization and then go get it!

Vision Development Vivid Description

In addition to vision-level BHAGs, an envisioned future needs a vivid description – that is, a vibrant, engaging, and specific description of what it will be like to achieve the BHAG.

Think of it as translating the vision from words into pictures, of creating an image that people can carry around in their heads. It is a question of painting a picture with your words. Picture painting is essential for making the 10-to-30- year BHAG tangible in people’s minds.

For example, Henry Ford brought to life the goal of democratizing the automobile with this vivid description:
“I will build a motor car for the great multitude.… It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.… When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways, the automobile will be taken for granted…[and we will] give a large number of men employment at good wages.”


Passion, emotion, and conviction are essential parts of the vivid description. Some managers are uncomfortable expressing emotion about their
dreams, but that’s what motivates others.

Churchill understood that when he described the BHAG facing Great Britain in 1940. He did not just say, “Beat Hitler.” He said, “Hitler knows he will have to break us on this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, the whole world, including the United States, including all we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Whereas identifying purpose and values is a discovery process, setting the envisioned future is a creative process. Many executives have a great deal of difficulty coming up with an exciting BHAG. They want to analyze their way into the future.

You might make more progress by starting first with the vivid description and backing from there into the BHAG. This approach involves starting with questions such as, We’re sitting here in 20 years; what would we love to see? What should this company look like? What should it feel like to employees? What should it have achieved? If someone writes an article for a major business magazine about this company in 20 years, what will it say?

This aligns with Stephen Covey’s model of beginning at the end.

There are archetypal BHAG’s;

  • quantitative
  • qualitative
  • david vs goliath
  • role model
  • transformational

Sample BHAG’s

Quantitative and qualitative
Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000 (Wal-Mart, 1990)
Democratize the automobile (Ford Motor Company, early 1900s)
Become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products (Sony, early 1950s)

David vs Goliath
Knock off RJR as the number one tobacco company in the world (Philip Morris, 1950s)
Crush Adidas (Nike, 1960s)
Yamaha wo tsubusu! We will destroy Yamaha! (Honda, 1970s)

Role Model
Become the Nike of the cycling industry (Giro Sport Design, 1986)
Become as respected in 20 years as Hewlett-Packard is today (Watkins-Johnson, 1996)
Become the Harvard of the West (Stanford University, 1940s)


Mission is description of what you do for who in alignment with your values to achieve your vision.

It forms the foundation on which all of your hiring, strategies, initiatives and tasks are built.

The entire Mission model is also referred to as a Strategy Map (Drs. Kaplan and Norton).

What does your company do and for who?

A Mission statement is for internal use. The purpose is to communicate to the organizations team members what the organization does and for who. A Mission statement sets the overall operational objectives of the company.

It is not just word-smithing! Mission statements matter; meaning the affect the bottom line, customers and stakeholders. It states in a few words one of the core aspects of your organizations culture.

What makes a great Mission statement?

Abeo’s is: We provide people and organizations with the knowledge, tools and community to help them reach their full potential.

Think of your own “what you do for who” using a vivid description.

Core Ideology Summary

  • Purpose: The companies reason for existing
  • Values: The foundational core of the organization that would apply regardless of business
  • Vision: Where the company is going, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal 10-20 years out and a vivi description of what that will be like
  • Mission: Vivid description of what you do for who each and every day