I have a fun fact for you: Did you know, there are spelling errors in The United States Constitution? It’s true, if you look at the States column, you will notice that Pennsylvania is spelled Pensylvania minus an “n.”
Here’s another one for you: Did you know that George Washington almost didn’t attend the creation of the constitution? At the time, he was busy with his estate, and quite frankly doubtful that a united constitution would work. His choice was voluntary.
Of course, he went and later became the 1st president of the United States, but think about how things would have been different if he would have accepted his inability to make time or shed doubt.
The US Constitution is a cultural pillar of our nation. It sets the tone for the present and is amendable for the future. It’s a great example of how you reach millions of people with standard messaging and values. This leads me to question, is it scalable? Can the idea of a constitution be used at the business or even a team level? In this article, I discuss the purpose of an organization constitution and what it could look like.
What is the purpose?
An organizational constitution should be the framework for your company to either move to or sustain a cultural existence. In his book, “The Culture Engine” Chris Edmonds goes into detail about this topic. He states that the purpose of an organization constitution is to clearly establish 1) Purpose 2) Values 3) Strategy and 4) Goals.
In other words, an organizational constitution is a leadership tool that leaders use to provide clarity. The goal being that any employee in the organization should be able to reference it when they have questions regarding company culture or value system.
How to organize it
At the company I work for, we do not have an organizational constitution at the top level. However, at the Division level (next tier down) we did create an organizational constitution. In an effort not to fall out of line with the company mission, we simply used our business’s Mission as a baseline for the document.
To create the document we had to answer the following questions:
1) Who are we? – Through answering this question, we were able to come up with an internal mission that helps serve our global mission
2) What do we do to fulfill our mission? – This exercise resulted in us creating 5 pillars of success that all helped us achieve our mission. These will vary for your team/company, but a few examples of our pillars are “Provide Reliable Infrastructure” and “Recruit, Train, Retain Talent.”
3) How do we achieve excellence in each pillar? – This ties directly to the question above. It’s the “how” to the “what.” For each pillar, we created a strategy to achieve excellence and turned it into a 5-year perspective with achievable goals.
4) What values do we want to instill into our work? – This resulted in a set of values that are now the foundation for cultural growth. We created a document that goes with the constitution that digs into these values. We call this document the 5C’s; Create, Craftsmanship, Community, Communication, and Change. This is how we set expectations for team members and provide insight into employee growth.
I made sure to point out that we did not have a top-level Constitution because you may not get company buy-in to create one. If that’s the case, that shouldn’t be a show-stopper. I believe you can do this at any level. Just start with your team if needed.
One thing to note would be to keep the overall mission in mind upon creation. A constitution is meant to be unifying, but if it conflicts with the company mission, it could be viewed as a revolt.
I recognize that this exercise takes time, and starts with a reasonable amount of uncertainty of success. If these thoughts creep into your head, just think about George Washington in the intro. I’d say it worked out pretty well for him and I don’t see why you can’t do the same. You could basically be as big of a deal as the first president of the United States.
On a serious note, if you are concerned with company culture this is a fantastic way to steer the ship. It’s just like everything else and needs to be made a priority to work.
I recommend “The Culture Engine” by Chris Edmonds for further reading if you are interested. And as always, I would love to hear your experiences with company constitutions. If you have anything you would like to discuss, you can always contact me on social media or leave a comment below. I hope you enjoyed the read!