The Rotary Four-Way Test
More than 60 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, a U.S. Rotarian devised a simple, four-part ethical guideline that helped him rescue a beleaguered business. The statement and the principles it embodied also helped many others find their own ethical compass. Soon embraced and popularised by Rotary International, The Four-Way Test today stands as one of the organization's hallmarks. It may very
well be one of the most famous statements of last century.
Herbert J. Taylor, author of the Test, was a mover, a doer, a consummate salesman and a leader of men. He was a man of action, faith and high moral principle. Born in Michigan, USA, in 1893, he worked his way through North Western University in Evanston, Illinois. In 1919, he married Gloria Forbrich, and the couple set up housekeeping in Oklahoma, USA, where he worked for the Sinclair Oil Company. With some prosperous years behind him, Herb returned to Chicago, Illinois, in 1925 and began a swift rise within the Jewel Tea Company. He soon joined the Rotary Club of Chicago.
In line for the presidency of Jewel in 1932, Herb was asked to help revive the near-bankrupt Club Aluminium Company of Chicago. Looking for a way to resuscitate the company and caught in the Depression's doldrums, Herb, deeply religious, prayed for inspiration to craft a short measuring
stick of ethics for the staff to use. 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:
For all the things we think, say or do
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?