How to get your Organization to Fly Together

Posted on August 7, 2017

guiding principles

By Rebecca Woodbury and Andrew HeningCity of San Rafael

In my last Morning Buzz, Judi Brown and I wrote about the beginnings of an innovation and engagement initiative called Together San Rafael. Today, my co-author is Treager List Top Influencer, Andrew Hening, San Rafael’s Director of Homeless Planning & Outreach. Andrew is shepherding our guiding principles process for this initiative.

After we first talked to the City Manager about starting an initiative to modernize our workplace and improve both employee and customer experience, Jim came back to us with a name (Together San Rafael) and a draft set of guiding principles grouped in three buckets:

original guiding principles

It was a great start, but we quickly started getting feedback that they needed to be simplified and more visual. To accomplish this, we assembled a small working group of employees from different levels of the organization to look at what other high achieving organizations were doing:

GDS design principles

Google's core values

Feeling inspired, our group jotted down key insights from Jim’s first draft and we added additional ideas that resonated with the group. As a team, we clustered similar items and gave each group a header.

The next iteration became:

Together with our Departments, Together with our Organization, Together with our Community, we…

  1. Start with community needs. Embody the spirit of community service and work with the community to solve problems.
  2. Work Together. Do things together and work beyond silos. Appreciate each other, share responsibility and imagine the possibilities together.
  3. Say Yes! Be optimistic and look for ways to help people achieve success.
  4. Work Open. Be open to change. Share and make things open; it makes things better.
  5. Contagious Leadership. Make your time at work count. All your talents are essential to the bigger success of the team.
  6. Take Risks. Try new things, continuously learn and always work to improve the world around you.
  7. Honesty & Transparency. Be honest about what you can and can’t do. Communicate well and often.
  8. Question the Status Quo. Ask why we do something the way we do and seek ways to improve.
  9. Be Aware. Understand context and root problems.
  10. Resource stewardship. Be mindful and fiscally responsible with our resources.

The working group brought this back to the larger advisory committee, got more feedback and continued to iterate. Thanks to Talia Smith’s fancy design skills, we are now turning our latest draft into a poster to share with the entire organization. Members of the advisory committee are being asked to have conversations with their peers to get more feedback about whether these resonate.

guiding principles

In addition to posting this document throughout our offices and facilities, we are planning a series of small, inter-departmental group discussions led by members of the advisory committee.  The meetings are geared around key questions like:

  • Will these help us do what we need to do to get where we’re trying to go as an organization?
  • Have we missed any core sentiments in the organization?
  • Will these help us fly together?
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