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A tiny card’s game-changing message

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When Bill Swanson became CEO of Raytheon in 2003, he instituted a simple rule. He required all 65,000 employees to carry a laminated card with them at all times. It summarized the company’s vision, strategy, goals and values. It begins, “Raytheon seeks to be the most admired company in the defense and aerospace sector.”

Swanson, who retired in 2014, treated the card so seriously because of what it represented in his mind: A way to align everyone’s efforts to focus on what counts.

Soon after he became CEO, Swanson learned from surveys that roughly half of the workforce did not buy into the culture that Swanson sought to nurture. Realizing that a lack of alignment could wreak havoc on morale, Swanson created the card so that everyone knew what he—and the company—stood for.

During his presentations to employees, Swanson liked to pull out his card and show it to the audience. Then he’d ask, “How many have your card?” Addressing those who did not raise their hand, he said, “I’m coming back and I expect your hand to be raised next time.”

The message sunk in. Employees began to embrace the culture more fully and believe in the values that Swanson championed. Within a few years, surveys showed that 94 percent of employees were aligned with the culture. Over his 11 years as CEO, Raytheon’s sales soared 26 percent, and its stock price and dividend rose threefold.

— Adapted from “Former Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson: ‘Culture trumps strategy every day of the week,’" Sandra Duerr, www.sanluisobispo.com.

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