Management And Guiding Principles

All management is based on guiding principles. This is true whether the principles are appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent. This article will help you understand the most appropriate guiding principles and how to use effective strategies to assure organizational excellence and better assure your success as a manager.

All management is based on guiding principles; and the effectiveness of management derives from those principles. This is true whether the CNFN principles are appropriate or inappropriate, reasonable or unreasonable, consistent or inconsistent. Similarly, the derivative nature of management holds whether the guiding principles are vague or well-defined, followed faithfully or haphazardly, applied day-to-day by managers who are highly skilled or fundamentally incompetent. Effective management, then, is a product of:

• Guiding principles that are appropriate, reasonable, and consistent;

• Managers who clearly understand the guiding principles, faithfully adhere to them, and who are fundamentally competent.

It follows from this that the effectiveness of an organization’s management is a product of the Principle/People equation:

• Principles + People = Outcomes.

The guiding principles for an organization are a composite of underlying assumptions and values that define and direct management practice. ‘Assumptions’ in this context are beliefs that are held as ‘true’ without demonstrable proof. ‘Values’ are those conditions that are held to be inherently and intrinsically ‘right.’ From this perspective, then, guiding principles are true because they are true and right because they are right.

With the non-empirical, self-justifying nature of guiding principles in mind, an organization has its unique ‘culture.’ Here, ‘culture’ refers to the collective beliefs, values, and norms of the organization, where ‘norms’ are the standards for behavior and interaction within the organization. These standards are, of course, based on the organization’s beliefs and values related to how the organization’s people ‘should’ behave and interact both with each other and with people outside the organization. ‘Norms’ thus define correct and proper behavior.

When norms are understood as following from beliefs and values, the organization’s culture can be summarized as its collective sense of;

• What is true,

• What is right,

• What is proper.

At an abstract level, an organization’s guiding principles exist within its collective memory and current consciousness; but at a practical, functional level, those guiding principles reside within its people. Each person is a carrier and a conveyer of the guiding principles that direct the organization’s day-to-day activities and future ‘outcomes.’ Those ‘outcomes’ may be tangible or intangible but are, nonetheless, a product of the collective efforts of people who carry and convey the organization’s guiding principles.


(P) Professionalism: An organization’s achieving its desired outcomes is dependent on its people; so what people bring to the endeavor makes a critical difference. They must be competent to fill their organizational roles. At a minimum, they must have knowledge, skills, and judgment consistent with their positions and responsibilities. In turn, they must apply their knowledge, skills, and judgment in the interest of achieving the organization’s desired outcomes. To the extent that the organization’s people do not have the requisite knowledge, skills, and judgment for their positions, the organization, through its management, must assure that the needed training and skill development are provided for its people; and as people leave the organization, new people must be recruited who either have or can develop the requisite knowledge, skills, and judgment. Whatever the mechanism, the organization cannot achieve its desired outcomes unless and until the requisite knowledge, skills, and judgment are in place.

(R) Responsibility: Assuming that the requisite knowledge, skills, and judgment are in place, the organization’s desired outcomes will only be achieved to the extent that its people do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time. Simply having competent people in place is not sufficient in and of itself. Here, doing the ‘right’ things is not based on training and experience. Rather it is based on understanding and adhering to the organization’s guiding principles. It is doing that which is right from a value perspective. Doing the right things right, the first time, on time, every time means that the organization’s people are consistently and conscientiously adhering to its guiding principles.

(I) Initiative: Competence plus adherence to guiding principles leads to initiative: people seeing what needs done and doing it because it needs done. Since the organization’s people are competent, they are able to see what needs done and have the requisite knowledge, skills, and judgment to do it. Since they adhere to the organization’s guiding principles and are committed to its desired outcomes, they do that which needs done. Conversely, if the organization’s people do not manifest initiative, there are organizational deficits requiring management intervention. That intervention must be directed to some mix of increasing the competence of the organization’s people and increasing adherence to the organization’s guiding principles. Increasing adherence to guiding principles, of course, must focus on increasing understanding and acceptance of that which is true, right, and proper from the organization’s perspective.

(D) Directedness: The organization’s people can be competent, do the right things, and manifest a high level of initiative and still not achieve the organization’s desired outcomes unless there is a high level of Directedness: focus on attaining optimal outcomes for each situation or circumstance. These optimal outcomes are intermediate steps toward the organization’s desired outcomes; and an absence of focus on them decreases the likelihood of achieving the organization’s desired outcomes. Conversely, intense focus on intermediate outcomes increases the likelihood of achieving the organization’s desired outcomes.

(E) Effectiveness: Were the internal and external organizational environments static, professionalism, responsibility, initiative, and Directedness would be sufficient for achieving the organization’s desired outcomes; and once people were successful with respect to the intermediate outcomes, they would only need to ‘keep up the good work.’ Management, then, would be little more than a ‘maintenance of effort’ process. However, both the internal and external environments change over time; and management is responsible for assuring a continuing fit between the organization and the external environment. Further, the organization’s desired outcomes change over time. This change may involve completely different outcomes or changed standards for old outcomes. Whatever the change, yesterday’s desired outcomes will not be the same as tomorrow’s. It is, then, management’s responsibility to keep the organization’s people aligned with its changing outcomes. This is accomplished through doing what needs done, evaluating what was done, and doing it better the next time, while concurrently assuring continuous fit with changing internal and external environments and desired organizational outcomes.


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