We have come to see that profitability and human development are part of a single whole. Pursuing both emerges as one set of activities. In other words, they are not two things to be traded off or two parts of a “double bottom line.” Far too often, business is a world where mediocrity and meaninglessness are the norm. Indeed, this is what the consensus culture tells us to expect. We had a different view. We see business as a place of wholeness, connection, excellence, and meaning.
Our approach is to do our way into knowing. Taking the business issues we face, we lead with practices, tailored to the community in which they are introduced, and then we attempt to codify the knowledge that emerges. We begin with a hypothesis (for example, that work is meaningful, or that people are not only means but also ends in themselves, or that individuals and communities naturally develop); we then act as if the hypothesis is true; and finally we check the results of our actions. We tend to find that the results not only confirm the hypothesis, but that our actions actually cause it to be true.
Our Operating Philosophy is a combination of Ideas, Commitments, and Practices
Our operating philosophy is not an ideology, not a set of ideas in which to believe. It is, instead, a set of practices in which to engage. More precisely, it is a combination of ideas, commitments, and practices. Among our commitments are our purpose, values, and axioms. Our guiding ideas include developmental growth and the necessity of managing not only individuals but also collectives and not only the explicit but also what is tacit. And our practices include personal excellence, professional discipline, business competence, servant leadership, and building learning communities.
In building our operating philosophy, we have been well served by the theories and frameworks of others. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras on corporate vision, Peter Senge on learning organizations, Scott Peck on community building, Robert Kegan and Don Beck on developmental growth, Ken Wilber on the tacit and explicit, Ronald Heifetz on adaptive change, and Robert Greenleaf on servant leadership: these are some of the sources from which we have drawn. They have helped to guide our practices and, in some cases, to explain more clearly than we could what it is we are actually doing.
We believe that work is meaningful
Decurion’s purpose is to provide places for people to flourish. We believe that every human being has something unique to express. Flourishing is the process of living into one’s unique contribution and expressing oneself fully. It is the process of becoming oneself. We seek to create the conditions for this through our work. And by demonstrating the efficacy of our practices in generating financial and developmental returns, we hope to inspire and guide other companies in making work more profitable and more humane. In this way, we seek to change society for the better.
Our axioms are fundamental beliefs about people and work.
- We believe that work is meaningful, that work gives meaning to people’s lives. For us, meaning comes from three things: developing oneself, creating something excellent and enduring, and contributing to other people.
- We believe that people are not only means but also ends in themselves. Most businesses view people (employees, customers, suppliers, and others) as a means to some end, such as completing a transaction or meeting a goal. We feel that reducing people to a role in a process dehumanizes them. While honoring the roles they play, we approach people as fellow human beings, as ends in themselves.
- We believe that individuals and communities naturally develop. Much of the literature on development ends with the teenage years. But we know that adults continue to develop. Our structures and practices create conditions that pull people into greater levels of complexity and wholeness.
- And while we did not begin with this belief, our experience has shown us that pursuing profitability and human growth emerges as one thing. They are part of a single whole, not two things to be traded off or two elements of a “double bottom line.” We capture this axiom by saying that nothing extra is required.
Some years ago, we made explicit the values that guide our company. They are:
- Excellence: If we can’t be proud of it, we don’t want to do it.
- Respect: We feel a responsibility to treat people with fairness and decency.
- Clock Building: We believe in managing and building this company to last at least through the next century.
- Servant Leadership: We feel an obligation to contribute to the communities in which we operate.
- Learning: We believe in providing an opportunity for individuals to develop, grow, and contribute.
- Compassion: We care about people.
Decurion does not require that employees share its values or beliefs. We do not seek to impose our beliefs on others. In fact, we encourage questioning and recognize that wisdom begins in not knowing. We do, however, require that people adhere to our purpose and values when they act in or on behalf of the company. Building meaning into work, treating others as ends, and creating conditions for development (our axioms) as well as excellence, clock building, servant leadership, respect, learning, and compassion (our values) are not ideals to which we aspire. They are standards for action and requirements of behavior.
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