Why Your Organization Should Copy These Instead of Imitating Practices


In organizational leadership, I have learned the hard way. It is easy to try to be some other organization we admire or that appears to be successful.

So, we attempt to copy what they did in our organization. Wrong.

It seldom works. Therefore, I have learned that if you feel the need to copy anything, copy principles not practices.

— Having a systematic planning process, which keeps the organization moving forward ... Copy that.

— Conducting productive meetings that don't waste time but rather spur ideas and collaboration ... Copy that.

— Celebrating wins so that what you've done well gets repeated ... Copy that.

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— Embracing healthy conflict so the team remains healthy ... Copy that.

— Utilizing short-term, mini-teams to tackle unique opportunities or challenges and break-down organizational silos—yeah, Copy that.

When you learn a good principle of leadership, feel free to copy that into your own organization.

But at the same time:

— Staff meetings every Tuesday? Maybe, but maybe not. You need productive meetings, but Monday might be your best day. Or you may not meet but every other week in your context. You may change the people in the room from who another organization would include.

— An annual volunteer banquet featuring an outside speaker? Perhaps, but maybe that's not the best way for your organization to celebrate volunteerism and victories. Copy the principle of doing so, but find what fits better with your style.

— Quarterly reviews? Well, it is a good practice to give continual feedback to people and let them know how they are doing. But maybe your organization prefers a less-rigid approach to this. Copy the principle of giving feedback, but adapt the practice to what works for you.

Copy Principles, Not Practices

This is true in organizations and with individuals. You can be like someone in principle. You can copy their morals. You can be like them in character. But, individually, you should be who God designed you to be—independent of how others were designed. You have a unique role to play in God's plan.

So does your organization.

You can copy principles. In fact, why not? You may need to in order to be a healthier team.

Be careful, however, trying to copy practices. Your context will likely be different from where you copied it. What worked elsewhere may not work exactly the same in your context. And you shouldn't feel guilty about that.

Have you ever been guilty of copying a practice that didn't work?

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For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

Ron Edmondson, as a consultant and coach for almost 20 years, has helped thousands of leaders and organizations get better. He served as CEO of Leadership Network and as a pastor. He helped revitalize two churches and planted two churches. He also has a long history in business, government and nonprofit work.

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