The “32 by 32”- Why Leaders Must Declare the Top Core Value

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Every core value you’ve declared for your team or organization is important. But one of them is more important than the others.

Having a clearly defined set of core values is critical to establishing the culture of your organization.

But portraying each value as carrying equal weight could be keeping your organization from really firing on all cylinders.

In almost every case one value should clearly stand head and shoulders above the rest.

I call this the “32 by 32”.

This is a leadership term introduced to me by my friend Wayne Alguire. Wayne moved into pastoral ministry out of the marketplace, where he was a senior executive with Levis Strauss.

Wayne explained to me that when he would meet with managers in the Levis stores he would always stress that each article of clothing in the store was important.

“But never run out of the 32 by 32’s,” Wayne would stress.

This was the single most popular size carried by Levis. And while each size mattered, if you were running out of 32 by 32’s you’d soon be running out of business.

Similarly, in your organization each of your core values is important. But invariably there will be one that is your “32 by 32”; one value which rises above the others.

This is the value that simply must be ever-present in your organization. More than anything else, this is the value that defines who your team really is.

Being able to boldly articulate this value for your team, is vital for 3 critical reasons:

1.   It provides focus

Each of your 8, 10 or 12 values are no doubt important, but your team is unlikely to be able recite each one. But they can remember one.

2.   It defines reality

Let’s face it. There already is a single core value that defines your culture more than any other. Declaring it as such simply acknowledges something your team already knows to be true.

 3.   It creates energy

It’s difficult to rally your team around multiple values. But you can rally them around one. That sense of rallying is an energy generator.

Sit down with your team and review your core values. And have the courage to help them discover which one over-arches all the others.

It starts by asking a simple question;

“Team; which one is our 32 by 32?”

What value is your team’s 32 by 32?



the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.


  1. Thanks Scott,

    I wonder if tailoring the question from an organizational view is important. “Which of our values is #1 from an organizational point of view?”

    The reason I ask is I’ve fallen into the trap of expecting my #1 to be everyone’s #1 value. This has created unnecessary tension because then I try to convince everyone that my #1 should be theirs.

    These day’s, as long as we share a set of core values, I’m not fighting over which one is #1.

    However, I see the value of this discussion and having a single guiding light that takes priority. That’s why I asked about the idea of discussing this from an organizational rather than an individual point of view.

    Or am I just obsessing? 🙂

  2. What I find so interesting about your take Dan, is that this is the approach I started out taking with this post. I was intending to use, as an example, the particular “32 by 32” that had risen to the top in the organization I led at that time.

    But upon reading the finished post I realized it sounded like I was advocating for a particular value; the one we happened to rally around.

    I didn’t want people to be sidetracked by what happened to be OUR primary value. My intent was to raise a conversation among organizations, whereby they would look to discover THEIR primary value.

    Who knows…Maybe this requires a “Part 2”! 🙂

    Thanks for weighing in.

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