Regular readers of our blog know that we constantly emphasize the importance of creating rituals as a way to sustain the teaching and practice of the behaviors (Fundamentals) that drive success. One of the easiest and most effective rituals to practice is starting every meeting with a brief discussion of the Fundamental of the Week (FOW).
The practice is quite simple. At the start of any meeting that takes place during the week, you make the first agenda item a 3-5 minute discussion of the FOW. Note that I don’t suggest you create new meetings; rather that you simply take advantage of the meetings that are already going on. Let me show you why this is so powerful, and also offer a few tips for doing it effectively.
Episodic vs. Systematic
I often say that this ritual shifts our teaching from being merely “episodic” to becoming much more “systematic.” In the absence of this ritual, our teaching opportunities are limited to only those times in which an “episode” occurs. For example, if this week’s Fundamental were “Honor commitments,” we’d only be talking about it when someone failed to honor a commitment. However, if we started every meeting this week by talking about different aspects of honoring commitments, we’d now have lots of chances all week long to explore and teach about this principle. That’s being more systematic.
Case Law vs. Written Law
In the legal profession, a distinction can be made between the “written law” and what’s known as “case law.” The written law is the actual statute itself. However, the statute can’t adequately address every situation that might arise. Instead, in court cases decided across the US, judges render opinions that seek to explain how the statute should be interpreted and applied in real circumstances. These opinions form the body of case law.
In many respects, we can think of the regular discussion of the FOW in meetings as being like the case law. In other words, the few sentences we write when crafting a Fundamental can’t possibly explain everything one should know about it. The discussions that take place all week long and all throughout the year help us to evolve a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how the Fundamental applies in the daily situations we face. This is where the best teaching takes place.
This is one of the original rituals I started when I created the Fundamentals System in my first company, and given how impactful it is, it’s not surprising that nearly every one of our clients employs it as well. Here are a few suggestions for making your discussions more effective:
- Rather than just reading the Fundamental, engage people by asking a question or two to get a discussion going.
- At first, it’s best to have the leader of the meeting start the discussion, but over time, it’s very powerful to ask others to take turns facilitating the discussion.
- When asking questions, it’s helpful to address a specific question to a specific person, rather than tossing a general question out to the audience at large.
- For most of our clients, we create coaching guides, which include a list of suggested question for discussion for every Fundamental. This can be a valuable tool for engaging people
- A good way to make this ritual a habit is by creating a meeting agenda template that everyone uses and making the FOW the first item on the agenda.
- I suggest you limit the discussion to 3-5 minutes so that it doesn’t unnecessarily squeeze out other important agenda items. If more discussion is warranted, you can continue when the meeting is over so that those who have time pressures can move on to other scheduled activities.
Remember that you don’t institutionalize a culture by talking about it once. It only happens when we’re clear about the behaviors that drive success, and then create a structured, systematic way to teach them over and over again. This ritual is a great tool to employ in that effort.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create effective rituals to drive your culture, shoot us an email, give us a call, or check out my latest book, Culture by Design.