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As I mentioned in Part One, relatively few organizations are exceptional. Those that are can be characterized not only by the results they achieve—that is, they are:

Viable—achieve their purposes and do so while acting according to society’s highest values.

Sustainable—remain viable over time.

Valued—all stakeholders in the organization see their association with the enterprise as being worthy, in that they benefit to a significantly greater degree than they would with competing entities.

But additionally, Exceptional Organizations are defined by four Key Elements. The first two I discussed in Part One—the organization’s Purpose (its mission) and Action (the work done to achieve its purpose).


Exceptional Organizations are also defined by two additional Key Elements that comprise them:

3. Culture: The values, beliefs, traditions and processes that guide the organization’s behavior.

The culture of an organization describes how its members behave as they work—that is, the organization’s values, beliefs, traditions and processes. A value-based culture of an Exceptional Organization behaves according to its expected norms which are consistent with the highest values of society.

Not being a “value-based culture” will result in the organization’s members acting according to whatever they think is appropriate for the entity and themselves. This will result in wrong behaviors at variance with the organization’s purpose, mission and values.


4. People: The organization’s members who do the work.

The organizing principle that marshals the organization’s people is the employment of the right person in the right job. All activities focus upon structuring each position to be held by a highly-qualified and committed individual.

Not having the right person in the right job inhibits the organization’s ability to accomplish its vision. Furthermore, placing people in jobs where they are unable to perform creates a hardship for them personally, either because of the stress of not doing well or the prospect of losing their positions.

In an Exceptional Organization, these four elements—Purpose (the mission), Action (the work), Culture (guiding values, beliefs, traditions and processes) and People (those that do the work)—all interrelate with each other to form the organization as a whole with each element reinforcing the other.


William F. Brandt, Jr., is cofounder and former CEO of American Woodmark Corporation—the third largest producer of kitchen cabinets in America. His books include the winner of 21 Book Awards COMPASS—Creating Exceptional Organizations: A Leader’s Guide and COMPASS TOOL KIT, the teaching companion to COMPASS(www.WinterValePress.com ).


Copyright 2015 © William F. Brandt, Jr.

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