In 1990, Starbucks’ senior executive team drafted a mission statement laying out the guiding
principles behind the company. The team hoped that the principles included in this mission
statement would help partners gauge the appropriateness of their decisions and actions. As
Orin Smith explained, “Those guidelines are part of our culture and we try to live by them
every day.”13 After drafting the mission statement, the executive team asked all Starbucks
partners to review and comment on the document. Based on their feedback, the final
statement (please see Exhibit 2), put “people first and profits last.”14 In fact, the number one
guiding principle in Starbucks’ mission statement was to “provide a great work environment
and treat each other with respect and dignity.”15
Going forward, Starbucks did three things to keep the mission and guiding principles alive.
First, it provided all new partners with a copy of the mission statement and comment cards
during orientation. Second, when making presentations, Starbucks leadership continually
related decisions back to the appropriate guiding principle or principles they supported. And
third, the company developed a “Mission Review” system through which any partner could
comment on a decision or action relative to its consistency with one of the six principles.
The partner most knowledgeable on the comment had to respond directly to such a
submission within 2 weeks or, if the comment was anonymous, the response appeared in a
monthly report.16 As a result of this continual emphasis, the guiding principles and their
underlying values had become the cornerstones of a very strong culture.
After buying Starbucks, Howard Schultz had worked to develop a benefits program that
would attract top people who were eager to work for the company and committed to
excellence. One of Schultz’s key philosophies was to “treat people like family, and they will
be loyal and give their all.” Accordingly,...