On the Path to a Guiding Principle: Process Steps, Success Factors, and Obstacles in the Development of Guiding Principles for Organizations and Companies

Seminar Paper 2010 23 Pages

Pedagogy - Job Education, Occupational Training, Further Education



1. Introduction

2. Guiding Principles
2.1 Classification of Guiding Principles
2.2 Goals/Roles and Areas of Application for Guiding Strategies
2.3 Contents of Guiding Principles
2.4 Differentiation of Guiding Principles

3. Development of a Guiding Principle
3.1 Developing Process in Theory
3.1.1 Setting the Course
3.1.2 Development
3.1.3 Communication
3.2 Particularities with the Development of a Guiding Principle
3.2.1 Requirements
3.2.2 Practicability
3.2.3 Volunteering
3.3 Monitoring of Guiding Principles

4. Criticism of Guiding Principles

5. Conclusion and Outlook

6. Literature

1. Introduction

Nowadays, guiding principles are an important instrument in organization- and personnel development. They create direction through agreement on and definition of common goals and values. According to Belzer (undated, p. 14), it can be assumed that 90 percent of all businesses have a guiding principle.

However, what lies ahead on the path to a guiding principle? The aim of the present paper is to present the steps of the process, key success factors and obstacles with the development of a guiding principle. The paper is structured as follows: Chapter 2 explains the term guiding principle and explores why over the course of recent years guiding principles have become increasingly important in organization- and personnel development. Chapter 3 introduces the development of guiding principles in theory, addresses particularities during the developmental phase, and explains the need for monitoring of guiding principles. Possible problems with the development and implementation of guiding principles are the focus of chapter 4. Based on the presented theories, the author of this paper draws conclusions in chapter 5.

In the interest of better readability, the present text will grammatically reflect the female or male form of addressing a person; even if the context in question would support reference to either gender. Discrimination in whatsoever nature is not intended.

2. Guiding Principles

Chapter 2 explains the term guiding principle and explores why over the course of recent years guiding principles have become increasingly important in organization- and personnel development.

2.1 Classification of Guiding Principles

Corporate Identity (CI) is a strategy, aiming at a distinctive company identity. This company identity (being developed) is representing the personality of a company. Company identity is understood as the coordinated use of behavior, communication, and appearance directed towards the inside and the outside. In order to achieve this goal – as part of the “normative management” (Belzer undated, p. 16) – it is necessary to develop a guiding principle, offering guidance with the decision making process and driving all activities in the company. The corporate guiding principle is the written declaration of a company’s self-image and hence the basis of its CI and part of the management strategy.

Guiding principles define and reflect the specific and individual culture of an organization (identity) condensing the relevant values and action strategies. They create orientation and confidence through provision and definition of core values, mission, (corporate benefit) and vision (shared strategic goals). The guiding principle is primarily directed towards the inside (company), but can also have external relevance (image) for marketing purposes. By means of a guiding principle, the company is expected to develop a normative identity and streamlined action. In short: The guiding principle is an essential management tool in the company and important part of the CI.

2.2 Goals/Roles and Areas of Application for Guiding Strategies

According to Körner (1990, p. 5), guiding principles have become increasingly important in organization- and personnel development, because due to the individualization and fragmentation trend of life concepts, there was a general disorientation.

Guiding principles for a company serve the goal to discern and lay down in written language, what the self-conception of the company is. Their roles (= effects) can often be deduced from the written objectives. Hence the roles of a guiding principle with regard to employees lie in the modification of identification, motivation, orientation, and organizational culture. Guiding principles separate organizations from other, similar organizations by highlighting certain specific characteristics. Moreover, guiding principles have a legitimization and information function directed towards the outside (according to Belzer undated, p. 21f). Thus, they reflect both, starting point and goal of organization development.

The requirements for company guiding principles are according to Körner (1990, p. 24f): employee participation, feasibility, clearness, consistency, and permanent CI-policy. A prerequisite for a successful implementation of a guiding principle is intense employee participation during the development process – which is the only way to ensure employee identification with the company’s principles. Furthermore, it is important to put emphasis on the feasibility of the guiding principle. Although visions are essential, it is not credible or even counterproductive to pursue utopian visions that are out of reach. Besides feasibility, the expressiveness of the guiding principle is crucial. Good verbalization conveys clarity. The statements have to be phrased in such precise, plastic, tangible, and consistent language, that every employee will gain orientation for his daily task accordingly. Moreover, statements have to be formulated in as concrete a manner as possible in order to be able to check the implementation of the guiding principle. This is also important for CI-controlling. The implementation of the CI is a continuous process – this only can ensure that these principles of guidance are embedded in the employees’ awareness.

A guiding principle, as described above, shall be the standard for individual employee activities. “Die innere Bindung des Menschen an das Unternehmen bietet dem Menschen Möglichkeiten zur eigenständigen Entfaltung und Einbringung seiner nicht genutzten Potentiale. (The inner bond of the human being with the company offers possibilities of independent development and contribution of his untapped potential.)” (Hesch 1997, p. 167). Along those lines, personnel development has to set the goal to actively include employees in the development process of the guiding principle. Only the identification (“linking”) of employees with the guiding principle – and consequently with the company – can ensure taking advantage of the employees’ individual potential in a positive manner. When the creation and implementation of the company’s guiding principle is done correctly (see chapter 3.1), “the employees will follow the guiding principle out of conviction” (Körner 1990, p. 11).

2.3 Contents of Guiding Principles

Guiding principles describe the self-image of an organization, but also contribute to the evolution of the very same organization, as well as its corporate culture, since the guiding principles verbalize target-oriented requirements referring to the behavior of its employees (with regard to internal interaction and vis-à-vis external parties).

Contents of Guiding Principles are:

- Core values/-contents: Core values define the central values and standards of conduct within the company. Key themes of core values are: self-image of the company, moral concepts, company values, company identification, specific company features, specific nature of the product (according to Kerth/Asum 2005, p. 219f).
- Mission: The mission describes the impact of the company on society, the individual “contract”, and legitimizes its existence. Hereby company purpose and strategy are illustrated (also in terms of employee loyalty/motivation). Key themes of the mission are: company origin, company tradition, historic development, purpose and rationale of activities, recipe for success and core competencies, competitive edge.
- Vision: Vision presents the strategic goals of the company and verbalizes what the organization is supposed to look like in the future. The wording has to consider that vision should motivate but not frustrate for being out of reach. With a clear and unambiguous choice of words, directives shall become apparent. Additionally, motivating and emotional elements (for the purpose of identifying the individual with the staff/the company) should be included. Moreover, the vision has to be easily communicable (also in terms of anchoring it in employees’ consciousness). Key themes of vision are: standing of the company in x years, setting of priorities, future labeling of the company, declared objectives.
- Self-image and Unique Selling Propositions: What makes the company so special? What are the elements of differentiation from competitors? What is unique in comparison to others?
- Guideline: The guideline is the core of the guiding principle. These (if possible positively!) worded core theses are defined as the product of creating core values, mission, vision, as well as self-image and unique selling propositions. They should be aimed at the future, motivating, feasible, formulated unambiguously and in clear language, and preferably have a long-lasting validity.
- Slogan or motto/leitmotiv: Do keywords, advertising slogans, ... exist already? The slogan (to be developed) is important, as it enables memorizing the guiding principle in a short and concise manner. Hence, the slogan is a miniature summary of the guiding principle. Examples for slogan: “Vorsprung durch Technik! (Advantage through Technology!)” (AUDI 2010) or “one faith. one future.” (nacworld 2010).



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Title: On the Path to a Guiding Principle: Process Steps, Success Factors, and Obstacles in the Development of Guiding Principles for Organizations and Companies