For too many organizations, the rules and regulations are out of control.

Helping organizations to define and articulate their Guiding Principles is one of the most rewarding things we get to do at our firm. Guiding Principles go beyond values: they help capture and articulate aspirational culture, and can help organizations develop a sustainable competitive advantage.

Here are seven of my favourite Guiding Principles that we’ve helped organizations develop this past year:

1. Welcome setbacks on the way to success. What I love about this principle is that it doesn’t just say that you should begrudgingly accept that there will be setbacks: – it permits us to welcome them. If something doesn’t work out as intended, learn from it. Then move on. And move on with confidence. This is about being open and mentally prepared for the challenges – and failures – that will occur.

2. Embrace the grey. Do you ever have to deal with ambiguity? Most people in today’s workplaces deal with ambiguity all the time. So embrace this principle. It acknowledges that we don’t operate in an either-or world. And it challenges us to be comfortable with ‘cloudy’ information, and to find optimal solutions in the middle ground between black and white.

3. Get zen with the chaos. This idea emerged from work we have done with a highly-innovative small firm that is totally disrupting an old and traditional industry. While their work can be chaotic, their new thinking and fast-paced approach is working. A lack of order can contribute to outside-the-box thinking and allows you to connect ideas that don’t usually go together.

4. Think long-term. The accountants will hate this one. How many poor decisions are made based on the desire to hit a quarterly target rather than doing the right thing for the longer term?

5. Create space for no rules. For too many organizations, the rules and regulations are out of control. Creativity is reduced, and even worse, professionals are limited in their abilities to do their jobs. The concept of creating space for no rules allows organizations the opportunity to let people use their judgment, challenge preconceived notions, and ask “what if…?”.

6. Celebrate diversity: respect and acceptance go without saying. Any organization that needs to say that their values include ‘accountability’ or ‘integrity’ must have some serious problems on their hands. Values like that are the price of market entry – as is making the most of diversity in its broadest definition. This guiding principle acknowledges the benefits of diversity in all of its dimensions, but also calls out the fact that you shouldn’t have to say that you are respectful and accepting of people in today’s modern organizations.

7. Find a reason to smile every day. Celebration is an incredibly powerful tool. Many people and organizations will have big celebrations at the end of the year, but forget to celebrate the little things along the way. If you can find a reason to smile every day, not only will you enjoy your work more, but will also be able to complete more great work.

These are excellent Guiding Principles that can be valuable for almost any organization – so use them to help your own organization be more effective, more efficient and have greater impact.

By: Hugh MacPhie