Take Your Values On A ‘Mission To Mars’

posted in: Culture, People, Values | 0

Now that we have a set of collected values it is time to test them against employees.

In this step you may as well go on a few different paths. The key driver of choice I believe is the size of your company. Small Company’s (till about 100 people) might consider to follow Tony Hsieh’s approach:

Zappos Email sent in 2006

We’ve been working on a “Zappos Core Values” document, and the first draft of it is below [red.: the output of Step #4]. Please take the time to read it over and email me (do not cc everyone) any suggestions, additions, subtractions, or other feedback.

In particular, think about any employees that you think represent the Zappos culture well, and whether what you like about those employees is covered by the 10 core values proposed below. Conversely, think about any employees that you think do not represent Zappos well, and whether the reason behind it is due to them not representing one or more of the core values below.

This is a very important document, as we will give the final version to all employees. It will be more or less permanent for all the future years of Zappos, so your input is very important. Please make sure you set aside the time to read and think about it.

If however, your company is large(r) in size, than it is likely that this approach will keep more than a handful of people busy with all the potential responses. Large(r) Company’s may therefore opt to take a ‘Mission to Mars’ approach.

Mars Camp


The “Mission to Mars” exercise by Jim Collins asks that you imagine you’ve been asked to recreate the best version of your organization on another planet, but you only have room to take 5 to 7 people.

Who would you send? They are the people who are likely to be exemplars of the organization’s core values and purpose, have the highest level of credibility with their peers, and the highest levels of competence.

Have all the people involved in the values process (this group may be rather large, 100’s or even 1000’s, and should be very diverse) nominate a Mars group of five to seven individuals. The most nominated become the “Mars Group,” who are chosen to work together to create a final articulation of the vision.

That work may start with the exercise as described for small(er) companies –or start-ups- just described here above. The final “Mars Group” may be bigger than 5-7 people, though make sure that the results (as per the mentioned exercise) can be compiled by 1-2 people.

A 'Mission to Mars' can identify the natural leaders in your company! Click To Tweet

There’s an interesting side effect of the “Mission to Mars” Exercise: It provides insight in where the people considered representative for your current culture currently are in the organization. That is an interesting data point. If there are many from the same or similar departments, it would be worth checking out why? Or on the opposite side of the spectrum: if departments are structurally missing from the proposed Mars Group candidates… well the question is equal, why?

Look at the experiment from this latter perspective, the Mission to Mars exercise enables to:

  • Gather additional valuable insights in this discovery phase.
  • Its ‘secondary’ results are likely to be of help in the later phases when we’ll chat about people and changing the system.

For now, this exercise is going to have you covered with involvement of an important set of people in your company. You’re getting closer to having the right values, and the right support to carry those values in daily corporate live.


Just a few more steps in the next weeks, stay tuned!


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