Test that stands the test of time

In 1932, Herbert J. Taylor took charge of Club Aluminum Products with the assignment of rescuing the failing company from the brink of bankruptcy. He looked at everything from the quality of their products to their branding in an attempt to find a way to turn the tide.

At the time, Taylor said, “With tremendous obstacles and handicaps facing us, we felt that we must develop in our organization something which our competitors would not have in equal amount. We decided that it should be the character, dependability, and service mindedness of our personnel.”

Taylor created a short four-question test that would be applied to every aspect of the company’s operation. After trying it himself for a few months, he was convinced of its value and rolled the test out company-wide. To the surprise of all its competitors, Club Aluminum Products was able to pay off all of its debts and became a thriving business thanks to the new mindset of its employees. Taylor’s test is as follows:

Of the things we think, say, or do:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build good will and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

These four simple questions addressing truth, justice, civility, and a willingness to help others have since become known as the “Four-Way Test,” which is now one of the most widely used measures of both personal and professional ethics throughout the world. In the almost 90 years since it was created, not a word of it has been revised.

Taylor was a member of his local Rotary Club, an organization that stresses adherence to ethical standards in conducting business. In the 1940s, Taylor offered his test to Rotary International, who adopted his test as the core premise of their organization. With more than 35,000 clubs in approximately 200 countries, the Four-Way Test was spread far and wide.

I have committed these four simple questions to memory. Whenever I am faced with a difficult situation, I lean back in my chair, close my eyes and run through the Four-Way Test in my mind. It never fails that in doing this, the right path forward is immediately made clear.

The principles of truth, justice, civility and a willingness to help others will never fall out of fashion and will never fail to point us in the right direction. This is true for both personal and business-related issues. From trivial social media posts to high-level business negotiations and everything in between, we need to check that our decisions pass the test.

Barbara Andersen, Executive Director
Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce