Core Values, Guiding Principles & Social Contracts

Guiding Principles are any principles or precepts that guide an organization throughout its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or the top management. – The Business Dictionary

Core Values, Guiding Principles or Social Contracts… what matters most is not the name you give them, but rather how you live them in & outside of your business. The latest News International Phone Hacking Scandal is one example of guiding principles gone wrong, or the lack of them all-together. Core values as well, but the fact that a lack of guiding principles led to the closure of the News of the World after 168 years in print was only the first significant effect of the scandal. With all of the current ongoing investigations, including possible criminal charges, just goes to show once again why lived guiding principles are key to long term success.

Core Values

Core values are a value system of a set of consistent ethic values (more specifically the personal and cultural values) and measures (evidence of how you live them) used for the purpose of ethical, ideological integrity or moral code. They apply to us in the sense that they are a personal value system that is held by and applied to an individual, and or a community/group/society. They are rules that govern our ethical standards as we actively apply in relation to our behavior, our interactions with our colleagues and clients as we go about “the business” of executing our responsibilities. Our work place values work best when they are aligned with our personal value set outside of work.

Guiding Principles

Guiding principles can be seen as guidelines that drive our behavior or mindset when executing the strategic and operational plans that lead to an organizations success. When we think about words or phrases such as scalability, recurring revenue, business partnership, productivity, profitability or challenging the status quo, we’re addressing the mindsets we want behind the development and subsequent execution of  strategic and operational plans. Guiding principles are how you execute upon your established ethics.

Social Contract

It was the lack of a social contract (as well as ethics & guiding principles) that led to the 2008–2010 global financial crisis! Wikipedia refers to the political context of a social contract as an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments, but I’d like to simply refer to it as a “device intended to govern appropriate relationships between individuals”.

In the Work Place

Core values establish your ethics in how an individual or a collective interacts with others, guiding principles establish the strategic & operational mindsets, and social contracts govern (establish expectations for) relationships. You can’t say that anyone is more important than the other! They are all a required eco-system for long term success. How you balance the three will either help you move forward faster or slower.

That said, it’s guiding principles (mind-set) that most influences the value creation of the products & services you develop in addressing your customer’s needs.

How do you see core values, guiding principles & social contracts at work in your organization?

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