Principles – The GPS of Pursuing Excellence

“Lean,” derived from the customer-focused, waste-busting Toyota Production System, is the performance improvement methodology Value Capture utilizes in working with clients. Without an explicit principles base, however, research and experience teach that improvements gained only from lean tools are neither sustainable nor systemic.

So what do we mean by “principles-based?” What does that look like, day in and day out?

Let’s start with what a principle is. A principle is a foundational rule, which produces inevitable consequences — whether we think it will or not. Gravity is an easy example. If we toss a ball into the air and we ignore gravity, the ball will fall and might hit us in the head. If we adhere to and act according to the principle of gravity, we will catch the ball and save ourselves a sore head.

Let’s change the example to the most fundamental principle of human interaction:  Respect for Every Individual. (This is also the foundation of the Shingo Guiding PrinciplesTM). Respect is a feeling, essentially, not something concrete. It is usually manifested in a physical way, i.e., a behavior. And the collective behaviors of an organization demonstrate its culture.

For example, if you see a person speaking loudly and pointing a finger at the face of another person, it’s possible Respect is not a core principle of this organization. If you are walking in the lobby and you see a person stop to pick up an apple core from the floor, or you see someone on the shop floor put the “wet floor” sign by a spill, does that demonstrate Respect for others? If you regularly observed these examples, would you think that organization has a culture of Respect, or not?

Principles not only help guide behaviors, they can help guide decision-making. When opportunities or difficulties arise, consider the path that most closely aligns with your principles. If Respect is a core principle, for example, and you need to decide whether to buy a new piece of equipment that produces at a higher rate, but has a higher risk of operator harm, Respect would indicate that you forego this purchase.

Key Questions – What are the core principles upon which your organization is built? Do behaviors you observe, the culture, manifest those principles? Is there a gap between the observed culture and core principles? If you’d like to share any thoughts with us, please email Melissa Moore,

Shingo Principles and Workshop

Ready to dig in and gain a practical understanding of what the Guiding Principles look like in the workplace? Registration is now open for the foundational workshop, Discover Excellence, taking place October 22-23, 2020, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Learn how the Shingo Model and Guiding Principles provide a structure on which to anchor improvement work and with which to close gaps to work toward sustaining a culture of organizational excellence. Learn more here, or contact Melissa Moore, to register.