Procedure to principle LO9846

Benjamin Compton (
Mon, 09 Sep 1996 07:50:18 -0700

Replying to LO9812 --

Daniel Scott wrote:

> I am currently doing research on principle-centred organization and am
> wondering if anyone has any thoughts on how to facilitate movement within
> an organization away from a bureaucratic, procedure-oriented, rule-based
> model to one where decisions are made and day-to-day functioning is
> carried out based on principles. My impression is that such a movement is
> central to fostering any substantial organizational learning. The issue I
> am struggling with is what practical, concrete steps can one take to help
> foster such a movement, particularly in departments in which historically
> almost everything is done according to rigidly defined procedure.

What do you define as a principle? A natural law? A concept or theory
that has been proven to operate the same way over time?

> How do
> you help people think in terms of principle and be independently able to
> make decisions and take initiative on an understanding of principle,
> particularly those who, perhaps for their whole career, are used to
> performing according to procedure. What structures can be put in place to
> reinforce such behavior? What is the balance between principle and
> procedure, obviously you can't wholly dispense with it.

As a quality manager I've gone to great lengths to make sure every
process and procedure emerges from theory. . .and, I've assiduously
worked to make explicit those theories. I don't know if you would
consider a theory to be a principle or not, but I found that doing this

1) Encouraged people to follow the procedures (as they know why the
procedure is the way it is)

2) Helped people understand, at a much deeper level, how a procedure
could be improved (I require people to explain why they feel a certain
Corrective Action is necessary)

3) It has helped every engineer become aware that everyone is acting
according to some theory -- whether their own or someone elses. Thus,
real improvements come from clarifying or redefining the theories upon
which we function.

And, as a side note, before working where I do now, I was asked to be a
part of a small leadership consulting firm. (I started as a software
engineer, and ended up as the manager over Business Leadership
Services). . .but anyway, what we came up with was a P3T: People,
Principles, Processes and Technology.

If you'd like more information about that approach to quality, let me

Ben Compton

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