The Four-Way Test
As he thought about an ethical guideline for the company, he first wrote a statement of about 100 words but decided that it was too long. He continued to work, reducing it to seven points. In fact, The Four-Way Test was once a Seven-Way Test. It was still too long, and he finally reduced it to the four searching questions that comprise the Test today.
Next, he checked the statement with his four department heads: a Roman Catholic, a Christian Scientist, an Orthodox Jew and a Presbyterian. They all agreed that the Test's principles not only coincided with their religious beliefs, but also provided an exemplary guide for personal and business life.
And so, "The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do" was born:
Profound in its simplicity, the Test became the basis for decisions large and small at Club Aluminum.
But any test must be put to the test. Would it work in the real world? Could people in business really live by its precepts? One lawyer told Herb: "If I followed the Test explicitly, I would starve to death. Where business is concerned, I think The Four-Way Test is absolutely impractical."
The attorney's concerns were understandable. Any ethical system that calls for living the truth and measuring actions on the basis of benefits to others is demanding. Such a test can stir bitter conflict for those who try to balance integrity and ambition. Sizzling debates have been held in various parts of the world on its practicality as a way of living. There are always some serious-minded Rotarians, not to mention skeptics and negative thinkers, who view The Four-Way Test as a simplistic philosophy of dubious worth, contradictory meaning and unrealistic aims. The Test calls for thoughtful examination of one's motives and goals. This emphasis on truth, fairness and consideration provide a moral diet so rich that it gives some people "ethical indigestion."
But at Club Aluminum in the 1930s, everything was measured against The Four-
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