The History of the Four Way Test
AN ETHICAL FRAMEWORK. FOR LIFE.
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all Concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
We have Herbert J. Taylor, a Chicago Rotarian, to thank for this simple moral compass. Developed more than 60 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, four-part ethical guideline helped him rescue a failing business. And for more than ix decades, this statement and the principles it embodies, gave many others map to success. Soon embraced and popularized by Rotary International, The Four-Way Test today stands as one of the organization’s foundations. It could also be one of the last century’s most famous statements.
Herbert J. Taylor was a mover, a doer, a consummate salesman and a leader of men.. Born in Michigan, USA, in 1893, he worked his way through Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After graduation, Herb went to France on a mission for the YMCA and the British Army welfare service and served in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps in World War I. In 1919, he married Gloria Forbrich, and the couple set up housekeeping in Oklahoma, USA, where he worked for the Sinclair Oil Company. After a year, he resigned and went into insurance, real estate and oil lease brokerage.
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 Aluminum Company of Chicago. The cookware manufacturing company owed $400,000 more than its total assets and was barely staying afloat. Herb responded to the challenge and decided to cast his lot with this troubled firm. He resigned from Jewel Tea, taking an 80 percent pay cut and invested $6,100 of his own money, to become president of Club Aluminum.
Looking for a way to resuscitate the company, while fighting against Depression’s pull, Herb,turned to his faith, and prayer, for inspiration to craft a short ethical ruler for the staff to use. In trying to craft an ethical guideline for the company,his first attempt was a statement of about 100 words. Thinking this was too long, he continued working, reducing it to seven points— in fact, The Four-Way Test was originally a Seven-Way Test. Still believing it was too long, he eventually reduced it to the four soul-searching questions we know today.
Finally, he looked for guidance from his four department heads, an group with extremely diverse backgrounds— 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 ideal guide for personal and business success. Thus, “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do” was born,