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Identifying a set of operating principles

Posted byWritten by David

Form follows function.

This is a hard and fast rule, right?

I suppose it depends on whom you ask. Put an architect, product designer, industrial engineer, and a software developer in a room together and my guess is the discussion, err debate, could go on a long time.

My first major in college was architecture. Why architecture didn’t stick is a story for another time. The concept of “form follows function”, however, has since had a gravitational effect on my thinking. I tend to see most of the world through this operating principle.

Operating principles are necessary in life and business. Without operating principles we have no foundation from which to function. Some might quibble and suggest that values override principles.

Values are individual beliefs that motivate us to act one way or another. Often, we identify values as singular traits, such as honesty, ambition, or courage.

John Meyer, CEO of Lemonly, a digital communications company, talks about core values.

“Your core values are what you stand for as an organization. They’re the pillars of your organization that define who you are.”

Lemonly’s core values are Adventure, Collaboration, and Integrity.

Learn how to identify your core values and design a company culture with John’s online course: Designing Company Culture

Simon Sinek might take a little issue with John’s single word values.

“Innovation is not a value. Honesty is not a value. They are not actionable. […] Values have to be actionable; they have to be doable.”

If the values are ingrained in the DNA of an organization, thus, well understood and lived by all each day … then it could be said that single word values are being actioned.

What about principles? Principles are rules. Well written principles can be a code of conduct. They are a little more descriptive.

Ray Dalio, the highly successful investor, defines principles as “ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.”

Dalio’s book, “Principles”, goes deep into all of the principles he’s applied to life and work. There are dozens. And at first blush, it leaves one wondering how so many principles can be managed and even be helpful. What you come to learn is that there are a few core principles that all other principles seem to point back to.

Life and work are complicated. As we experience events and learn, we can formulate clearer principles. These principles, as they hold firm and as they evolve, serve as both a foundation and a guide.

Operating principles give definition to strategy and priorities. Commonly Well has four operating or guiding principles. All projects and initiatives must align with these principles and advance the vision of the organization.

Throughout March, I plan to expound upon each principle. I have two objectives for doing this.

1. Paint a picture of Commonly Well’s vision.

2. Provide insight into how guiding principles could help serve your vision.

Well-thought principles will inform your function and can take its natural shape.

Commonly Well uses a text messaging platform to design custom automated and
personalized engagement strategies for data capture, performance monitoring, and
outcomes measurement.

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