Culture = Context

We are creatures of context. As humans, we function best when we have a clear understanding of our surroundings and receive non-ambiguous feedback from our environment as we go along.

At work, culture is our context. It is what governs our interactions with one another, what guides our expectations of our social structure, and what ensures that we take action in a predictable and cohesive manner, as individuals, teams, or entire business units.

Because culture is so important, don’t leave it unclear and undocumented. The only way to ensure continuity, cohesiveness, and improvement is to document it. Turn your expectations of why, how, and what your team should do into a written set of principles.

In his book Principles, Ray Dalio shares Bridgewater’s first principles:

  1. Put our honest thoughts out on the table,
  2. Have thoughtful disagreements in which people are willing to shift their opinions as they learn, and
  3. Have agreed-upon ways of deciding (e.g., voting, having clear authorities) if disagreements remain so that we can move beyond them without resentments.

This set of agreements between everyone in the organization helped Bridgewater turn into the best-performing investment management firm of all time.

Don’t leave your principles undocumented.