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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Principles and the Project Manager

Principles are mile posts that help to guide our conduct. They come from natural laws that are recognizable by all cultures. Principles have been around since the dawn of time.  They are timeless and aren’t dependent on us making them a permanent part of our lives.

I believe a most of our problems in society come from the fact that many of our leaders and manager don’t live principle-centered lives.

What are principles that are easily recognized? These are a few: Patience, Kindness, Tolerance, Integrity, Honesty, Encouragement, Trustworthiness, Empathy…

Principles should guide our conduct, and when they do, they are easily recognizable by others.  When our leaders decide to reject principles in order to gain power, influence or money, the organizations they lead are in deep trouble.

Many times leaders attempt to put aside principles to get short-term gains.  They believe by making speeches filled with empty promises they will gain the trust of others.  This happens all the time in our organizations, and results in the same mistakes repeated over and over.  Having said that, we keep electing the same people to office over and over, don’t we?  Where has this gotten us?

Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.  To solve the tough problems we need to look at our paradigms and habits and be willing to change them.  Sometimes this means firing (not re-electing) our current leaders.

Do we really think we can just buy our way out of the current mess on Wall Street without fundamentally changing the way things work (paradigms and habits) and putting principled leaders in place?  Can you or your organization really change things for the better without focusing on principles and rethinking your paradigms and habits?  Do organizations really believe that layoffs alone change anything when their current broken paradigms and habits are left intact?

I have seen the results of unprincipled leadership, and the behaviors these “leaders” exhibit can have a profound, lasting, and negative influence on others.  The sad part is these leaders believe they are part of the solution, however we know better.  You can’t lead your way out of a problem that you don’t fully understand, and if you try to do it without principles the results are easily predicted. DISASTER!

Big problems cannot be solved by small people and small mindedness.  Remember, principles aren’t values. The Mafia has values, but their practices certainly aren’t related to principles. As Stephen Covey say’s “Principles are the territory. Values are the map”.


Amy said...

Hi Stephen

Great article and I'd just like to say its my first visitto your blog. It was recommended by a reader of so I'd like to extend an invitiation to you to profile you and Project Steps

If you are interested, please get in touch. PPMcommunity is a website which brings together all the programme and project management blogs on the web

Sam Bagwell said...

I think if somehow you could age several years temporarily, you could make better progress on understanding the importance of living a principled life. It is hard to get the proper perspective until 60+. Maybe it just takes awhile to see the consequences. Another help might be reading Tom Peter's "Little Big Things".