Principles of Business

fouri_128_Principles_BusinessThe debate leading up to the referendum highlighted for me why “natural laws” will always prevail and ultimately triumph over any “laws” created by politicians, religions or other bodies with a marginal agenda.

Stephen Covey calls natural laws “Principles” and distinguishes these from values on the basis that they exist whether you are aware of them or not, and also by highlighting that they can’t be argued against, (although no doubt some will try). In light of the heated debate I feel it’s time to have a reminder of some of these Principles, (there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, maybe millions) and this selection underpins the whole of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Habit 1 – Be Proactive has the Principle that every individual is in control of their own life. Now there might be times when a parent, teacher, boss, client, politician or partner might cause you to feel you’re not in control but actually you are – you can do whatever you want.

Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind has the Principle that everything is created twice. You first imagine how something will be and then set out to create it. This applies to relationships and other intangibles as much as physical things. Of course, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” (Helmuth Von Moltke) so what you might end up creating is often different to how it was first envisaged, but the Principle remains intact.

Habit 3 – Put First Things First has several Principles but to pick just one – everything can be defined by importance and urgency: it’s either important and urgent, important and not urgent, not important and urgent or not important and not urgent. The Habit is to schedule Important things before not important things, even if these seem important because they’re urgent.

Habit 4 – Think Win-Win has the underlying Principle that by seeking the interest of the other one will achieve more in the long run. This Principle is one that many on either side of last weeks debate, and in nearly every political divide for that matter, failed to appreciate. Only by truly wanting to find the best outcome can it be achieved, and the best outcome is often one that neither party has considered.

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood has the Principle that diagnosis precedes effective prescription. And yet how often do people defy this Principle by prescribing their view of what’s right or not before properly assessing and diagnosing the situation?

Habit 6 – “Synergize” (I prefer to describe this habit as “The Third Alternative”) is the Principle that there are always multiple options and often the best solution is an option that hasn’t been considered by either party that are polarised by their strongly held opinion or belief.

Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw is the Principle that to be effective we, like machines, need regular servicing, proper rest and repair otherwise our performance will diminish.

If we apply these principles to business the following picture emerges:

Habit 1 – we can do whatever we like in business, we are not held slave-like to whatever it is we have previously done.

Habit 2 – so on that basis what should we do? Let’s ask the customer and truly understand their wants and needs and then plan accordingly.

Habit 3 – let’s make sure every meeting, every interaction, every system, every process is focussed on delivering what our customer wants and needs, what they consider important. Let’s make sure we don’t waste time on the unimportant stuff.

Habit 4 – we should be thinking about what’s best for the customer, for our team and for our investors/shareholders, as well as other groups such as key suppliers and the community too. Let’s be relentless in our pursuit of outcomes that are excellent for all, not just for one of the stakeholders.

Habit 5 – we really must continuously diagnose the market, the customer, the team, etc., as our “landscape” is constantly changing and we need to be aware that today’s solutions might not be appropriate tomorrow.

Habit 6 – often there is a better option, a third alternative, if we just take the time and effort to find it. Rather than prescribing the same thing we’ve always done let’s seek a better way to deliver our service.

Habit 7 – we all need a break and our performance is improved when we have a rich variety of tasks. Rather than having a “Groundhog” approach to work let’s make it full of different challenges and new opportunities.

Politicians, clergy, celebrities, CEO’s will all come and go but Principles are constant – and in a world of such fast paced change, (indeed change is a Principle itself), we need to remind ourselves of these constants and be guided by them.

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