I had come to Apple already well aware of the power of values. At IBM I had seen a value system that was amazingly powerful and was a guiding light for the operation of the company. It was the underpinning of a very strong culture and, I was convinced, had helped the company become so successful: in terms of market capitalization, IBM was ranked number 6 in the world and was the only nonunion company among the top 135 companies globally.
I have always felt the IBM success was, in particular, largely the result of several key aspects of the culture. Among them respect for the individual and the open-door policy have always seemed especially key. (The open-door policy referred to the practice of being able to approach any executive in the company with a problem or suggestion, including going to the chairman of the board with an issue.) I used to marvel that every man in the 300,000-person IBM workforce would put on a white shirt and a tie every morning—that one simple fact showing the dedication that can come from adhering to shared values.
But I was aware of one big problem with IBM’s values: most of them were not written down. It was like England, where the people speak proudly of their constitution, though there is no such written document.