Principles - Part 1 (#94)

Defining and documenting our values and principles is a critical first step in shaping our behaviors, strategy, and future direction.

A folding, yarn-like structure, colored from green to gold. Abstract.
Principles - Part 1, JLP

The spark of an idea that turned into the Paradox Pairs began in 2018 during a multi-day strategy session, as I briefly alluded to here. Another output from that session was a set of principles that described how we wanted to operate. We knew that defining and documenting our values and principles was a critical first step in shaping our actions. With our list as a reference point, we could then begin to structure our longer term strategy and guide our businesses with intention.

Here's how I summarized it at the time:

We are operating under the belief that we first need to define our values and principles which can shape our behaviors to establish our technology strategy to help construct the future business direction.

We created a dozen core principles, in this article we will cover the first six, updated for 2023. Isn't it interesting how many of our paradox pairs show up in these descriptions?

Inclusion By Default

We are stronger and more effective when we embrace a diversity of thought, when we draw from a wide range of experiences, and when we allow ourselves the opportunity to actively listen to others with different perspectives. We know our teams are stronger when every member feels a sense of belonging by being their true self, without the pressure of conformity in either action or thought. We get the best results when we accept others as who they are rather than who we may wish them to be. We want to learn from and connect with others so that we don't miss out on the best of experiences, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives.

Disagree and Commit

We challenge decisions when we disagree, even in the face of social pressure. We seek to understand — not undermine. We do not compromise for convenience, but rather for the sake of the common goal. Most importantly, we know when to “disagree and commit”, and once a course of action has been set, we are all-in as a team and committed to the outcome. There is no credit given for "I told you so"s, future success is shared equally, and if we miss our target it is a learning opportunity equally too.

Be Empowered

We believe that our success and growth are powered by our ability to make decisions without the constraints of bureaucratic oversight. However, we understand that we win or lose as a team and must leverage our shared experiences to guide new decisions. We embrace empowerment over autonomy, understanding that our true success comes from our abilitiy to honor mutually agreed upon operating principles.

Know the Value You Create

We think that the best way to feel empowered, productive, and valued is to understand where our work fits into the big picture — context is king. We believe that transparency at all levels is critical to feeling fulfilled as we strive to excel in our craft. The merit of information is amplified when it is shared rather than hoarded. We seek to understand the purpose of what we create, and illustrate the value for what we request.

Punch Above Your Weight

We recognize that every day is an opportunity to excel far beyond what’s comfortable, to push ourselves and expand our abilities. We don't succeed or fail, we succeed or learn. We believe our actions, aspirations, and responsibilities should not be limited by our titles or job descriptions. We challenge ourselves and raise the bar with ambitious goals and kill criteria. We aim to work smarter rather than harder.

Be Curious

We feel that curiosity is the single most important characteristic of a learning organization. We embrace the unknown and view it as an opportunity to develop ourselves. We ask questions often, regardless of how they may be perceived. We are fascinated by the “why”, ask it repeatedly, and believe understanding will lead to better outcomes. We recognize that self-awareness comes from asking "what" and avoiding unintended consequences comes from asking "how".

The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us. A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.