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In my experience, establishing guiding principles before starting the work is a step not to skip since they work as support to employees and help in some decision-making processes. But how can we create these guiding principles? I will leave you here what has worked for me:
1. Meet with the people facilitator
In the first stage, I like to meet with the facilitator in order to ascertain the importance of everyone having principles in common. In a meeting with him/her, we try to create guides to support the mission and realize if it makes more sense to have principles rather than a mission, values, or goal.
In the case of Angry Ventures, I met with the MC (the Angry Ventures people facilitator) to discuss this topic. In this meeting, I presented the following current principles, which acted as the basis for the next steps:
- We are genuine, transparent, and true to ourselves. We try to promote the same with others.
- We give and receive feedback
- We go beyond what we are asked
- We always have 5 minutes
- We practice a “desenmerda-te” mindset
- We work with, instead of working for
- We are normal people.
- We understand first and look for being understood after.
- We get out of our comfort zone
- We don’t lower the bar
- We deliver
- We decide and commit
- We ask for help
- We sync and over-communicate
- We only sell when value is perceived
At the end of this meeting, we realized that it would be important to review them to better adapt them to the group and reflect on what it feels/thinks.
2. Check if there is value in the guiding principles
In a meeting with the people facilitator, we try to understand if the principles defined in point one have value or not. I also like to try to understand what the main intentions behind the creation of these principles are.
In Angry ventures, this discussion allowed us to reach a consensus that values are static, but principles are not. A vision without principles is not a vision with direction since the principles will give autonomy, responsibility, motivation, alignment, and involvement. The three pillars of the principles were born from this meeting: Deadlocks, Identity, and Direction. The creation of a process for designing the principles based on dynamics was established in which:
1) People are educated about the principles.
2) It understands what kind of deadlocks the organization has.
3) It defines the identity of the organization.
4) It defines the direction of the organization.
3. Educating people about the guiding principles
There’s no point in creating principles for an organization if employees don’t know what they are. Therefore, this point is the basis of the whole strategy defined in point two.
At Angry Ventures, we created a Slack channel (the #learning channel) to provide an energy of sharing content on the subject.
These were the shared contents:
We also share the following note: as you know, there was a group dynamic last week to define Angry Ventures Team Principles. If you still don’t know what those are, we suggest you read our (several) blog posts on the subject. In short, they are an intellectual thread that unites us all, represents our common position on things, and is also something that guides us in more challenging situations.
4. Understand what kind of deadlocks the organization has
All organizations have their stalemates of the most varied kinds. This is normal. But as there is always room for improvement, it is good to understand what these are and create principles that can help you solve them.
To do so, we devised a board at Miro so that, as a team, we could describe the impasses that each one encounters in their daily lives (in this case, we focused on a time window that included the last 12 months). Everyone had the opportunity to contribute to the board and share the most relevant deadlocks.
In the end, we aggregated the virtual post-it to find patterns and relationships of weight and priority between them. After that, we organized a spreadsheet with some of them that would help to solve these impasses. This spreadsheet is only a draft but already helps in the definition of them. For example, if one of the standoffs were “difficulty to say no,” it would generate the following principle: “no is a valid answer either.”
5. Define the identity of the organization
The next step was to create a group dynamic, where we could define the organization’s identity. For this, one can resort to a dynamic called Is- Is Not – Does – Does Not.
We created a board at Miro and divided it into four areas (Is, Is Not, Does, Does Not). Then, each one could share what he thought the company was or was not, what it did or not, in the right place. In the end, the facilitators did the exercise of aggregating the opinions given and finding patterns and relationships between them. Finally, a spreadsheet tab was produced containing some of the final guiding principles that help to characterize Angry Ventures.
6. Define the direction of the company
Finally, it is important to define the direction of the organization through another group dynamic. This will help consolidate some and bring new ones to the table, which had not yet been thought of.
We used the Hero’s journey dynamic by creating four spaces divided in “Hero,” “Guide,” “Cave” and “Treasure,” in which one should put, respectively, who was the Hero of this journey (in this case, the Angry Ventures team), the people or things that guide the Hero, the difficulties and obstacles ahead, and what one intends to achieve and accomplish.
The most important to define was the “Treasure,” since the other points only came to reinforce the previous exercises. The obstacles (in the “Cave” table) are not the same as impasses. They are sometimes based on the past, whereas the challenges focus on the future – what we must overcome to reach the “Treasure.”
7. Interpretation and extraction of the guiding principles
From all the data obtained through the dynamics, it is possible to interpret the results and thus consolidate and create team principles.
We divided the team into small groups of roughly the same size and distributed for each group an area that constituted the Miro board of each dynamic. For example, one team would take what constituted the company or not (identity dynamics), and another would take on the dynamics of the organization.
Not everything has to be represented by a principle, and some clusters can even be more represented than others. Throughout this process, one could also vote for one that had already been written and that represented well a cluster of post-its, thus avoiding another similar one to be written.
8. Define the final principles
At this stage, you should already have in hand several guidelines that represent your organization and your work team. The last step is to bring everyone together and decide as a team if some can be assorted because they are similar or eliminated.
After this meeting, a small group of people worked on the semantic part of the principles and organized them into categories to be easily consulted.
P.S. Thanks to Michel Canovas for reading drafts of this.