How do you facilitate a team through the development of an organization’s guiding principles? While there are a number of different approaches, the Drivers Model we teach in our Secrets to Facilitating Strategy course uses a scenario-based approach, as outlined in the seven steps that follow:

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1. Educate on guiding principles.
As with prior components, start the discussion of guiding principles by educating your team on what guiding principles are and the specific format used.

2. Identify the behaviors you want.
After introducing the guiding principles concept, provide a scenario in which your team members visualize someone in the organization who exemplifies the organization’s values and culture. Have your team members identify the behaviors that make that person exemplary.

3. Identify the behaviors you don’t want.
Once you’ve identified the behaviors that you want, the next step is to identify the behaviors you don’t want. Describe a scenario in which team members are orienting a new hire. Ask them to indicate what behaviors they would tell the new hire aren’t tolerated, aren’t liked, aren’t acceptable, and might even get the new hire fired.

4. Identify the values.
With both key characteristics and intolerable behaviors listed, have your team group these into logical categories. These categories typically represent the values of the organization and serve as the starting point for your guiding principles.

5. Draft the guiding principles.
To draft the guiding principles, take each of the value categories and create guiding principles, using the “We believe (value)… Therefore, we will… (behaviors)” format as a template. To conserve time, you might do the first guiding principle as an entire group and then use breakout groups to create the remainder of them.

6. Perform a quality check.
To ensure the quality of the guiding principles, use the quality check process that follows.

7. Develop the transformation plan.
The final step in the guiding principles process is to determine the strategies you and your team will use to transform the guiding principles from paper to action. Start by reviewing strategies that other organizations have used. Then, have your team brainstorm strategies that could be used, and then select the strategies that you’ll use.

Related: Considering Strategic Planning? Video: 5 Reasons to Do Planning

The Quality Check

If you and your team have done a great job of developing guiding principles, you’ll able to answer yes to each of the following questions:

  • Do the guiding principles identify all the organization’s key values?
  • Are the principles worded in such a way as to indicate both the value and the expected behaviors (e.g., “We believe… [value]. Therefore, we will… [behaviors].”)?
  • Has your team developed a transformation plan to help make the guiding principles part of the organization’s daily operations?

Related: Need Strategy Training? Take our course, The Secrets to Facilitating Strategy

Sample Guiding Principles

Examples of guiding principles follow. While the standard format for a guiding principle is, “We believe… (value). Therefore, we will… (behaviors),” note the different ways in which these guiding principles are formatted, while identifying both the value and the behaviors that support the value.

Continuous improvementWe seek continuous improvement. Therefore, we’ll strive not to make the same mistake twice. When a mistake is made, not only do we correct it, we seek to understand why the mistake occurred and what we need to do to prevent it from happening again.
Corporate citizenWe conduct our business in a socially responsible and ethical manner. We respect the law, support universal human rights, protect the environment, and benefit the communities where we work.
Customer serviceWe will not forget that our customers are our bosses, and that they pay our wages. We’re responsive, respectful, efficient, and timely.
DedicationWe’re dedicated to doing everything we can to help our organization be a success by working harder and smarter than our competitors.
EnthusiasmWe bring an intense and eager passion to our work each day.
Follow-throughWe do what we say we’re going to do. Follow-through and execution are our focus.
Industry leadersWe believe to be effective industry leaders requires investment in innovative ideas. Therefore, we will:  
  • Interact with our customers to understand and respond to their changing needs.
  • Seek new opportunities.
  • Build and maintain partnerships.
  • Strive to be on the leading edge of the industry.
IntegrityWe’ll let ethics and honesty govern our conduct in dealings with customers, team members, suppliers, and our company.
LeadershipWe believe in progressive leadership—leaders who recognize that their job is to be a vehicle for maximizing their employees’ effectiveness. Therefore, we will:
  • Be giving of ourselves as leaders.
  • Make all managerial decisions by going through a decision checklist (e.g., ethics, feasibility, legality, impact).
  • Be consistent in our decision-making process.
  • Maximize our resources, both human and capital.
  • Hold employees responsible for their actions.
  • Recognize employees on the basis of their performance.
Needs-focusedWe meet our clients’ needs, not just satisfy their requirements. We strive to understand our clients’ real needs to ensure that we provide solutions that work.
OpennessWe listen to the ideas of others and encourage an open dialogue.
Ownership thinkingWe believe in ownership thinking. We spend the company’s money as if it’s our own. We’re careful to spend our time only on activities that bring value to the company.
Performance standardsWe value a high standard of performance. Therefore, we will:
  • Reward employees for exceptional performance.
  • Hold ourselves accountable for our performance.
  • Be innovative and creative.
  • Be cost-effective.
  • Exhibit professional behavior at all times (e.g., dressing appropriately, being punctual).
Personal responsibilityWe take personal responsibility. If we have an issue, we take responsibility for getting it solved (as opposed to complaining to others or withdrawing); when we make mistakes we admit our responsibility.
Professional ethicsWe believe that professional conduct is crucial in all aspects of our business. Therefore, we:
  • Are respectful and honest.
  • Subscribe to and demonstrate ethical standards.
  • Don’t show favoritism or discrimination.
ProficiencyWe strive for high proficiency by developing competence in all aspects of our work through personal and professional training. We seek knowledge.
QualityWe fulfill a promise to deliver the highest quality in everything we make. We design for quality- we have quality in our processes, our people, and our technology. We don’t deliver until we know it is ready.
SafetyWe maintain an environment that minimizes danger, risk, or injury.
TeamWe believe in the value of teamwork. Therefore, we’ll maintain an environment that promotes:
  • Constructive and effective communication throughout the organization.
  • Respect for the diversity of opinions.
  • Participation and cooperation.
  • Innovation.
  • Adherence to deadlines.