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If you've read any of my previous writing about creating and driving culture intentionally, you know that I place a strong emphasis on the importance of defining behaviors, much more so than values. Behaviors are clear and specific, and so they're easier to explain, teach, guide, and give feedback on. In this blog, I'll provide some tips on writing good behaviors (we call them FundamentalsTM).

Titles and Descriptions

Each Fundamental should have a title and a brief description that explains the expected behavior a little more fully. Examples of titles might be "Honor commitments" or "Be a fanatic about response time" or "Do it right the first time." It's always best to make the title an action rather than a concept. For example, rather than saying "Urgency," it's better to write, "Work with a sense of urgency." It's simply a more compelling statement when written as an action. It's not just an idea; it's a call to action or an instruction to do something.

What Do You Want People To Do?

The brief description should answer the question, "What do you want your people to do?" Often I see people describe their beliefs or their philosophy about the behavior, but they don't really explain what to do. A good description for "Honor commitments" might look like this:

HONOR COMMITMENTS. Do what you say you're going to do, when you say you're going to do it. This includes being on time for all phone calls, appointments, meetings, and promises. If a commitment can't be fulfilled, notify others early and agree on a new timeframe to be honored.

This is a pretty clear description of what we mean by honoring commitments. Notice how much more useful this is than simply stating a value like "Commitment."

Who Do You Wish You Could Clone?

A good way to think of the Fundamentals that are most important to you is to think about your best people. You likely have at least one person in each department who you wish you could clone. Picture that person. What do they do that makes you wish you could clone them? Those are likely behaviors you want as part of your culture.

In a similar way, a good way of thinking of descriptions is to envision someone who's a great example of the behavior you want. For instance, suppose you want to see people "take more ownership." Do you have someone who you think is the world's greatest example of taking ownership? What do they do that makes you say this? Whatever you see them do is probably a pretty good description of what you're looking for. "Taking ownership" is really just a label we give to a series of behaviors. The more clearly you can describe those behaviors, the more successfully you can teach them.

SOPs vs. Principles

One final thought: In doing this exercise, we sometimes see people get confused about how specific they should get. It's helpful to think of behaviors as existing on multiple levels. On one level is what we might call a Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP. "Fill out this form in triplicate" or "Make 10 sales calls per week." While SOPs are important, they're not what we're talking about in terms of the behaviors that define our culture.

The level where we want to be is what we call "Principle-based" behaviors. While they're specific enough to be clear, they're broad enough to cover a wide variety of situations. All of the examples that I gave in the 2nd paragraph of this blog are behaviors, but they're also principles.

Contributed by David Friedman, author of Fundamentally Different


Larry Hart

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