Establish Shared Principles

Principles Over Practices

discovery-loop-outcomes loop position

No. People



1 hour+




The Organisation

This practice is part of: Start With Why.

What is it?

While it might be bizarre to say “Principles over Practices” in an article that is part of the “Open Practice Library’, that is exactly what this “Practice” is all about. Establishing a set of shared principles for yourself or your organisation that are derived from your purpose and values and use those to guide you in the practices that you do every day.

You can think of Practices as the tip of the iceberg that is above the water, these are the ceremonies we do every day in our work. However if we look under the water we will see that the larger part of the iceberg that keeps the tip of the iceberg above the water, these are our principles and values.

Iceberg with Practices above the water and Principles, Values and Why underwater

  • Purpose (Why we are here) - our purpose, why this organisation exists
  • Values - a set of shared beliefs that guides the organisation
  • Principles (How we will act)- rules derived from our values and our purpose
  • Practices (What we do)- actions you take in specific situations

Organisations that have done the work to articulate “why they exist and what they believe” then need to clearly explain the “how they will act” they will work before they move to the “what they will do”.

Why use it?

Transforming organisations that start with a clearly articulated purpose and then establish a shared set of principles are more likely to succeed in their transformation than organisations that simply implement practices.

Purpose, Values and Principles are enduring but practices evolve and change over time. Blindly following practices is not encouraged, establish a set of shared principles and you can weather the storms that beat at your door.

It is important to use this lens to understand the success stories and reports we hear of successful organisations, often we only hear about their practices, the visible things they do, and less about their principles and values. Copying just the practices of successful organisations will not get us the same result if we do not also adopt the values and principles that originated these practices.

For example, when we talk about visualisation of work we are really talking about providing transparency and improving understanding of work too. Providing transparency is not a practice. It is a principle that can be embodied by a whole lot of practices.

Further Information

Examples of shared principles in organisations:

Further Reading:

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