August 16, 2012 Uncategorized

Principles, Practices, and Processes

I love it when I am reading a book and it brings something I have only had a tacit understanding of to a cognitive understanding.  Apparently I have been running around without truly understanding the difference and relation between principles, practices, and processes.  I have understood the definition of principle.  I gained a clear understanding of it from Steven Covey:

Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed of the principles contained in his monumental movie, The Ten Commandments, “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” — Stephen R. Covey 

Principles don’t require our belief for them to work.  I have also understood that practices and processes flow from principles.  What I just recently learned from the book Lean IT is about practices and processes.

…we use the term process to describe a series of actions or operations supported by structured information. Processes are activities that are generally repetitive, well-defined, routine, controllable, and standardized. In contrast, practices are nonroutine, highly variable, loosely defined, and require a degree of judgment and experience to carry out.

…information used in practice work is typically unstructured, difficult to define, and often experiential. When improving practices, the focus is on supporting a learning organization through an accessible collection of knowledge of past experiences to enable situation-specific decision making. To support practice work, knowledge management systems should be designed to manage both unstructured data (searchable content, documents, and images) and structured data (information in transactional databases, drilldown reports, trend analyses, etc.). They may also provide access to collaborative social networks, forums, blogs, wikis, and other sources of free-form knowledge sharing. Over time, some of the elements of practice work may be simplified and standardized into processes, effectively creating more efficiency without sacrificing agility.

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Why would this be important?  Well, many reasons… For me, most recently, it has been important in trying to help lead a change in our business sector.  I have found that change is most likely to adopted when the parties involved understand the WHY first.  Simon Sinek holds this same view as you can see from the picture of his golden circle and/or from his book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  Why maps back to principles and value systems, where as how maps back to practices and processes.

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I have also found these concepts useful in quantifying skill level of personnel.  Those with Wisdom and Understanding are capable of performing practices.  Those with Wisdom are able to define new processes.  Those with Knowledge and Information are able to perform processes. 
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