Immutable Principles – The Organisational W.O.W.

Ways of Working © | Dreamstime.com

Ways of Working
© | Dreamstime.com

Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour. I believe the immutable principles of any organisation belong in the same leadership realm as values and beliefs, and vision and mission. Values and beliefs provide a bedrock of foundations and guide the nature, or shape, of an organisation. Vision and mission provide clarity about where we are going and how we are going to get there. Immutable principles scaffold the ways of working, the W.O.W. They are organisational principles which scaffold organisational behaviour. Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour. The difference between values and immutable principles is a fine line. Immutable principles are an articulation of values which provide a filter against which decisions and actions can be tested. Thus, immutable principles are expressions of values. If values are the nouns and adjectives of the heart of an organisation, immutable principles are the verbs and adverbs. Immutable principles are an expression of how an organisation wants to operate. Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour.

If values are the nouns and adjectives of the heart of an organisation, immutable principles are the verbs and adverbs.

Immutable principles provide a practical set of working guidelines which can help identify prevent and eradicate leadership blind spots. Organisations often wait until they are experiencing difficulty before asking for help. When things seem to be going off track go to your immutable principles. Use them to check the behaviours and decisions of the organisation. Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour. Your immutable principles are like a second set of eyes, fresh lenses, through which you can see your team or organisation.

Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour.

The Johari Window is helpful in understanding where blind spots can develop. Two American psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, created the Johari Window in 1955 as a tool to help people better understand their relationships with themselves and with others. They combined their first two names to get the name “Johari” for their concept. (You can read more here about the Johari Window. I am going to give only a very simple explanation for the purposes of this discussion).

The two factors at work in the Johari Window are what you know about yourself and what others know about you. The model looks like a simple window – with four quadrants. The first represents what you know you know; the second quadrant represents things you do not know and you know you don’t know them; the third quadrant represents things you know but you don’t know you know them; and the fourth represents things you don’t know and you don’t know you know them.

Blind spots occur in the third and fourth quadrants. Blind spots may be things you don’t know you know or things you just don’t know and don’t know you don’t know them.

Leadership Blind spots © | Dreamstime.com

Leadership Blind spots
© | Dreamstime.com

Blind spots may be things you don’t know you know or things you just don’t know and don’t know you don’t know them.

When you learn to drive one of the key lessons is to learn to check the blind spots before you change lanes or make a turn. Blind spots are those areas you cannot see in your mirrors.  Checking blind spots involves a deliberate turning of the head to make sure you look at the areas your mirrors do not adequately cover. In particularly difficult places you might need a trusted passenger to let you know if traffic is clear so you can reverse out of a parking place. Sometimes you might even need someone to physically get out of the car and guide you. The extra set of eyes looking and checking where you cannot see for yourself. Many cars now even have warning lights on the side mirrors which light up when there is a vehicle in your blind spots. Immutable principles are like those warning lights. Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour. Habitually checking behaviours and decisions against immutable principles is similar to deliberately moving your head and eyes to check blind spots on the road.

Johari Window

Johari Window

The blind spots we experience when we are driving are like things in the third quadrant of the Johari Window. They are things we don’t know and we know we don’t know them. We know there might be vehicles in our blind spots – out of our normal range of sight and out mirrors – but we don’t know if there are or are not there. So, we check and adjust accordingly. We only miss them if we get lazy and do not check.

Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour.

The more dangerous blind spots are in the fourth quadrant of the Johari Window. The things we don’t know and we don’t know we don’t know them.  You can check for the things you know you do not know, but how do you check for the things you don’t know you don’t know? The first and biggest step, is to allow yourself to be aware that there are things you don’t know and you don’t know you don’t know them. The second is to establish clearly articulated immutable principles which serve as mirrors of your organisation. Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour. When your team members are operating in accord with your immutable principles all is clearly in focus in the mirrors. Thirdly, make sure there are trusted people on the lookout for you. The third is to include the occasional complete outsider who won’t be a victim of the “can’t see the wood for the trees” phenomenon which can occur when you are intimately involved with something.

Immutable principles, the articulation of the ways of working, the W.O.W, of an organisation provide an invaluable tool for checking for, and eliminating, blind spots. Write down your non-negotiables. Make them clear and user friendly. They will serve as the warning lights in the side mirrors of your leadership. Remember, immutable principles frame organisational behaviour.

The next post will look at some examples of immutable principles, how immutable principles frame organisational behaviour and how they work in an organisation.

 

Takeaways

  • Immutable principles frame organisational behaviour.
  • If values are the adjectives and nouns of the heart of an organisation, immutable principles are the verbs and adverbs.
  • The Johari Window is useful in helping understand where and how blind spots can develop.
  • Immutable principles scaffold the W.O.W. in your organisation (the Ways of Working).
  • Habitually checking behaviours and decisions against immutable principles is similar to deliberately moving your head and eyes to check blind spots on the road.

Additional Resources

The Johari Window

Five non negotiable elements of a culture

What are your non negotiables?

What are your non negotiables? They play an important part in your contribution.

What’s your organization’s attitude?