General Rules of Engagement
Article 1 – Idealistic mindset
1.1 Added value
Every organisation should start with an ideal, something that adds value to the world in some way, shape or form. In general, this can be found in a problem that a group of people or other organisations are experiencing in their day-to-day life that needs a solution.
1.2 Win/win or no deal
Thinking win/win needs some explanation, since many people use it in an ‘I win / I hope you win’ way. Thinking win/win means we ALWAYS search for both parties to win from a deal, and that when it is not possible, there can be no deal. Winning doesn’t necessarily mean ‘earning money’, but we’ll come to that later.
Here is a list of other strategies to better understand what they mean and how these strategies match with our win/win strategy:
- Win/Lose. This is the common strategy just described as I win/ I hope you win. Or even worse, if someone doesn’t care one bit about the other party winning or losing. No problem when we have a win/win mentality though, since we only go through if we see a win for ourselves as well, automatically forcing the deal into a win/win for both parties.
- Lose/Win. Strategy much abused by win/lose people, since both strategies perfectly match each other. A lose/win person uses phrases like ‘for the greater good’, ‘to keep the peace’ or ‘temporarily, until I have more bargaining power’. If those answers really satisfy the ‘losing’ party, then it’s a win/win, but generally it is not satisfying to accept a ‘loss’ to a win-lose person. For the win/win party it’s again an easy strategy to work with, but we will have to find the other party’s win, since he won’t necessarily go after it himself.
- Lose/Lose. Generally comes from vengeance. As a win/win party there’s nothing to do, but to go for ‘no deal’.
1.3 Money is a result, not a goal
We work to get a problem solved, and money or any other remuneration must be the result in order for us to be able to keep doing this work. It must be clear though, that it can never be the goal itself to earn money.
1.4 Focus on the natural course of things
Instead of forcing things into being, we try to focus more on what the natural course is and which barriers obstruct this natural development of a person or an organisation. Taking away these barriers is the primary goal.
1.5 Understanding, not judging
It is necessary to understand that every person has the feeling he does the right thing at every given moment (where right is not defined as ‘Good’, whatever that may be). We believe that for every action there is a reason and instead of judging, we try to understand what motivates this behaviour. Not only for the benefit of the other, but also for our own ability to better collaborate with the other party. And what better way to understand someone than to ask the reasons behind his actions?
Article 2 – Realistic goals
2.1 The business case
An idealistic mindset is great, but there must be a realistic business case as well. Although this is a stretchable definition, it generally means we need to find someone that is willing to pay for the product or service that we are offering. Whether we are a commercial company or an NGO (I don’t think there needs to be a difference between the two), we eventually depend on someone, and preferably more than one, who values our endeavours to make the world a bit better every day.
2.2 High quality = high pricing
If we always search for win/win, real added value and strive for all the idealistic goals described above, we must also put the right price on what we do, since doing so requires a lot of hard work and in many cases time to convince a sceptic market. If we have to compete on price, it is better to find another problem that needs solving.
Article 3 – Together is Better
We trust that someone has the right intentions, unless the opposite is proven. This might be the key to achieving true happiness, satisfaction and engagement at the workplace and in relationships with other stakeholders, such as clients/patients, suppliers and family. Google did extensive research on why some teams perform better than others, and the only real correlation they could find was the trust the team experienced in their daily work. Not only receiving trust from a manager, but also from direct colleagues to be able to say what they want to say without being afraid of negative feedback, thus coming up with innovative ideas. We believe this to be true and experience it every day.
3.2 Autonomy and self-management
We believe autonomy and self-management, while at the same moment belonging to something bigger than ourselves, are fundamental desires of every human being. Being autonomous relates to having interdependent relationships. In practice, this means that you are responsible for your part of the deal. We believe that every member of every team needs to have their own unique added value without being too important to miss.
N.B. A lot has been written and said about self-managing teams, including both positive and negative examples. Like in many cases, it’s usually the interpretation and/or implementation of an idea that makes it a success or a failure. It doesn’t work in one day and for some it may take years to fully participate.
3.3 Stimulate entrepreneurship
In order to be autonomous and self-steering, we need to know what value we represent for our stakeholders. Again, besides money there are many other important factors that can represent value for the organisation. As a median, we try to dedicate 50% of our time to directly paid work, 25% to transferring our knowledge to others and 25% to new ideas, projects and innovations. Obviously the percentages may vary between different people and phases in their careers. Starters will dedicate more to new things, seniors will have a bigger percentage of directly paid work and leaders might be more focused on transferring knowledge. Entrepreneurship should be stimulated by being open to all kinds of innovating ideas. Again, giving responsibility and trust to the innovators is an important value we represent.
3.4 KPIs for control, not as a goal
We believe Key Performance Indicators can be useful to monitor progress and see if and how goals are being met. However, like with money, it shouldn’t become a goal in itself. A classic example is ‘the amount of cups of coffee with a client’ as a KPI for a salesperson’s success. Although it can be true that in general more cups of coffee means more deals, focusing on drinking coffee has nothing to do with our business. If we drink coffee with friends that are not clients, or force a cup with someone who is not really into coffee, we don’t have the interest of our customers and ourselves in mind and won’t add any value.
4. Reward system
Although again it shouldn’t be our primary interest, we are living in a world where value is generally expressed in money. Although a nice work atmosphere, friendship, continuous development, autonomy, trust, etc. are great secondary benefits, we cannot use them to buy food, pay a house and maintain a family. Therefore, salary should be fair and make it possible to live a life without worrying about making it to your next pay-slip. Based on science and some common sense we came to the following guidelines for a fair salary.
This means that the best paid professional within the organisation never earns a salary more than 3 times the salary of a starter.
And one other restriction to maintain a healthy organisation:
If you are in a Start-up phase, you shouldn’t have salaries that on average exceed 1x nominal salary, because so much time is put into investigation, trial and error. And when you are mature as a company, you should never cross the average of 1,25 nominal salary. This assures a natural growth, since there will come a point where no one is able to grow in salary, unless you first hire someone new that lowers the average of the entire company.
4.2 Commissions and other incentives
We don’t believe in commissions or any other short-term incentives. Mainly for the following two reasons:
- It influences decision-making on the short-term that could lead to negative results on the long-term.
- It creates competition between colleagues, which negatively influences innovation because people stop sharing good ideas.
N.B. We are specifically referring to predefined bonuses that can influence decision-making. Obviously, achievements can be celebrated through rewards. Since achievements are usually the result of good team work, they should be celebrated as a team too. The salesperson that makes sure the money comes in is not the superstar since he needs the rest of the team to create, market and package the product our service.