Four Steps to Creating Principles and Building A High Performance Workplace

Have you read the first part of this article? You may like to look at the the overview of the importance of developing guiding principles before jumping into these four steps to creating principles.

Step One: Articulate the Values

Articulating the values that you want to drive the organization, is an important part of the visioning process for any organization.

Most organizations identify 6-8 core values they want their business to operate under, that will drive the outcomes achieved by the business. Click here for tips on developing team values. A leadership team that uses their values, to guide every decision they make, unerringly moves their organization to high performance. In order to create your guiding principles, you must have already identified your top 6-8 core values.

Step Two: Identify the Irrational Rules, Policies, Procedures

Work with your front-line team members to identify the policies, rules and procedures in your workplace, which either
  • have a negative impact on morale or
  • are unnecessary obstacles in the way of getting your product or service being delivered to your customer cheaper, quicker and of high quality

Toss out those that are irrational and don't support the business to achieve its goals. Click here for examples of poor decisions due to irrational policies

Step Three: Develop The Principles

As you develop your principles keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Your guiding principles spring from your Values
  • Involve team members in developing the principles
  • The principles need to be consistent with the Vision
  • What experience the organization wants to deliver to its customers
  • Ensure the principle doesn't outline the exact "how to do", but does emphasize what is important to the business

For each value create a statement that completes the statement

"People will be ...(insert value)... when they". Here are a couple of examples:

Value = Flexibility

People will be flexible when they:

  • Work within a structure that encourages and supports multi-skilling
  • Are guided by principles rather than driven by rules
  • Know and understand customer needs
  • Involved in decision-making that impacts on them
  • Are involved in planning and organizing change
  • Understand and appreciate the reason for change

Value = Technical Competency

People are technically competent when they:

  • Use their training with accuracy, care and attention to detail
  • Learn and implement skills
  • Participate in multi-skilling
  • Are empowered to take decisions in technical areas
  • Are highly trained and kept informed on technical developments

Step Four: Apply the Principles

One of my favorite exercises with groups is to ask them for examples of how they've used the organization's values whilst making decisions in the past week.

95% of the time, most groups have difficulty clearly stating their values and, certainly didn't consciously use them to make decisions!

Placing Values/Principles in cards and handbooks do not bring them to life!

Your principles and values must align behavior and drive performance. To make them real leaders must talk about them, explain them, defend them constantly, publicly, consistently (and if they can't they should either change the principles or leave the organization).

Many organizations spend (probably better said, waste) a lot of time developing their principles and/or values. Maybe even having them printed up and placed in cards and handbooks. And, that is often as far as it goes. This process (develop values ... stick them in a handbook) is followed by many thousands of organizations and all it does is breed cynicism and discontent. You know this to be true - you probably work in one of those organizations!

Leaders communicate their commitment to the organizational values and principles more by their actions than their words. For example, at one of the companies I worked at, Teamwork and Flexibility were two of our values.

One time we had a major fire in the facility, and for the next fortnight everyone in the facility was involved in the cleaning and sweeping up of the mess - from the Site Manager to the Receptionist to the team members whose 'job' it was to actually clean up the mess. Does that mean the Site Manager and Receptionist, should be on the end of a broom all the time? Of course not. However, if in the moment it is the right thing to do then you must illustrate the principle by living the principle ... of being a team member and being flexible in what you will do.

Principle Centered, High Performance Leaders consistently use these three questions in their decision-making process:
  1. Is this decision aligned with our principles and values?"
  2. "How will this decision affect our business over the next 3, 5, 10 years?"
  3. "What is the possible impact it could have on how our people behave and feel?"

Use the questions above, as you make similar type decisions in your business, to give yourself a much better chance of making design choices, that will lead to the long-term health and agility of your business.

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