In this week’s blog, Siri Maldonado, Director People Engagement, discusses the importance of Principles during a project or change, explains how they can be developed, and talks about the reinforcement activities required to keep them alive.
Have you ever been involved in a project that could not seem to pick up momentum? Maybe one where you understood the goal but couldn’t connect the dots to the bigger picture? Perhaps none of the project activities achieved the results you had hoped for.
While there are many variables that could account for these challenges, one of the most common reasons projects do not achieve the desired results stems from a lack of Principles. Principles are values that drive behaviours.
Establishing Principles for all your business transformations is vital as they help to drive governance, decision-making, and shape organizational cultures. They also inspire and provide direction to make informed choices. Even more, the best Principles are developed and communicated from the top-down, providing the structure and alignment required for organizations to function and grow.
It is important to note that Principles should not be mistaken for rules, which are a set of explicit or understood regulations with little to no flexibility.
Now that you understand the purpose of Principles, what’s next? See below for a step-by-step guide on how to develop and use Principles to support and drive your projects forward.
1. Start with a Principles workshop that includes the right people. The Principles should directly relate to your company values and ultimately should be developed or defined from the top down. The key decision makers can include company executives, the project sponsor, and change leaders. Ensuring strong representation from all parts of the business will help to make sure the Principles developed resonate with employees. Once your Principles are defined you can begin to mobilize them through the completion of a Team Charter which outlines agreed ways of working by each team.
2. At the start of the workshop, provide an overview of the business transformation or project, including the case for change, the driving force of the change initiative, who the key players are, and the desired business outcomes.
3. Make sure you provide an overview of what Principles are and why they are needed to successfully drive a project.
Ensure all the Principles are connected to your organizational core values for continuity and clarity. For example, if one of your core values is change resiliency, at least one of your Principles should be focused on this value as well.
4. The next step is to evaluate your Principles by asking the following questions:
a. Is this principle prescriptive, directional, and effective?
b. Does it support us in making decisions? Is it doable, feasible, and actionable?
c. Is it values-based, meaningful, and evoke purpose?
d. Is it enduring and can it be applied to different projects?
e. Is it measurable? Can we evaluate if it is followed, meets our desired outcomes, and provides the correct direction?
5. Now that you have drafted and evaluated your Principles, you need to socialize them with your people. Develop a presentation for senior leaders within the organization who are decision-makers and influential. Share your Principles with them to make sure they are aligned and have a strong understanding of their purpose and how they will help the business achieved success.
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Come up with a game plan that includes specific activities such as leader cascades and intranet announcements to share your Principles with the project team and the rest of the business. It is also important to weave the Principles into all your project communications so that they “stick”.
7. Use your Principles to govern any decisions that are made during the project. As mentioned earlier, Principles are not rules, but rather are guideposts keeping us on course. Keeping Principles at the forefront of your project activities will help to drive decisions and ensure those decisions align to them.
8. We know that Principles help to guide new behaviours, and a key piece of driving behavioural change is reinforcement. Unfortunately, this is often forgotten, but failing to reinforce or invest in reinforcement activities is another reason why many change initiatives fail. To help prevent this, organizations should invest the resources and funding required for a robust reinforcement plan that includes training, leader support, and pivoting to new ways of working where needed. It’s also important to remember that Principles don’t disappear when the project ends. Keep revisiting them and embedding them within other projects where they make sense.
9. Call in the experts! This is a great time to leverage your consulting partners to facilitate and drive the Principles workshop, as they possess the expertise and skills to execute an engaging and successful working session.