Chapter 4 – Understanding Principles

In a matters of style, swim with the current, in matters of principle stand like a rock.  -Thomas Jefferson                                                                                                                                                                   

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

 

Principles tell us how to thoughtfully put concepts to work. By the end of this chapter we will learn what a principle is and what it is not. We will learn how to recognize one, how to write one, how to analyze one, and why they are so critically imperative for processing information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition is the process by which we recognize and understand things. Cognition is not viable without principles and allied concepts.   Let’s discover how a principle is typically labeled to garner a few conventional examples.

The most common labeling protocol for the word “principle” is connected with the preposition “of” and the allied key concept. For example: Principles of Composition, Principles of Physics, and Principles of Law. When the word ‘principle’ is associated in this way, by very wide-ranging concepts, it can make it very difficult to extract the principles from the text unless the author makes an attempt to specifically identify them for the reader.

A second widespread labeling format precedes the word ‘principle’ with a flashy adjective, for example, The 80/20 Principle or The Oz Principle; both examples are titles for books. A flashy combination of adjectives and a concept attracts the attention of potential readers.

A third way we label ‘principles’ is with a seemingly obtuse description that is not wide-ranging but very specific to a particular field of knowledge.  For example, in the field of Dendrochronology (the study of annual growth rings in trees) we have The Uniformitarian Principle and The Principle of Ecological Amplitude. Both of these principles target a specific outcome.

The final example for representing principles is through the use of a single word such as Responsibility or Consistency.  This is where we may get into trouble differentiating a concept from a principle because most writers proceed to define the concept and never approach a well thought-out principle.  This leaves the reader with the question, just what is the principle and how do I take action to put it to use?  Unfortunately, the lack of or the poorly stated principle leaves the reader possessing keen insight and understanding in the lurch. The problem stems from a philosophical approach that contributes to the intellectual bank but fails to provide utility. Utility is the quality or state of being useful.

How can we make principles useful?

Steven Covey will provide some insight in my next post.

 

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Principles – The Covey Perspective

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

Stephen Covey enlightens in his book, Principle Centered Leadership: “principles are not practices.” He went on to say: “practices are specific activities or actions that work in one circumstance but not necessarily in another. Principles empower everyone who understand those principles to act without constant monitoring, evaluating, correcting and controlling. Principles have universal application and when they are internalized into habits they guide people in the creation of practices that payoff with more creativity, expertise, and shared responsibility at all levels of an organization.” Covey gives us an account of what principles are like, how they are used, and how they apply.

  • Correct principles are like compasses: they are always pointing the way and if we know how to read them, we won’t get lost, confused, or fooled by conflicting voices and values.
  • Principles are self evident, self validating natural laws, they don’t change or shift, and they provide “true north” direction to our lives when navigating the streams of our environments.
  • Principles apply at all times in all places and they surface in the form of values, ideas, norms, and teachings that uplift, ennoble, fulfill, empower, and inspire people.
  • Principles, unlike values, are objective and external.  They operate in obedience to natural laws, regardless of conditions.

When we identify what we think is a principle and then ask: Is it like a compass? , Is it self-evident? , Does it apply at all times in all places? , Is it objective and external? , we may be locked into the realm of subjectivity, but they still apply. There may be a few more important questions.

  • How would we identify and extract principles from a book or white paper?
  • What are the essential elements or characteristics of a principle?
  • What’s the difference in a principle and a practice or just a statement?
  • Are principles action-oriented?
  • Do all principles always contain at least one concept?
  • Can a principle be used as a tool; can it be put to work?
  • How would we write one?

To help answer some of the above questions let’s take look at the 80/20 or Pareto Principle. According to Richard Koch, author of the 80/20 Principle: The secret to achieving more with less: The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort (20%) usually lead to a majority (80%) of the results, outputs or rewards. In this particular case, we don’t need to extract the principle because the entire book is about the key principle. Koch clearly identifies the principle for us.

In my next post  – the characteristics of a principle.

 

Principle Characteristics – Concepts and Conditional Adjectives

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

The 80/20 Principle (Koch): A minority of causes, inputs, or effort (20%) usually lead to a majority (80%) of the results, outputs or rewards.

The essential elements of the Pareto Principle are eight nouns (concepts) a transitive verb (lead) and a limiting or conditional adjective (usually). It also contains a few “connecting” elements to help it make sense in the English language. If this principle is an exemplar, then initially we can say that it is concept dense.  Lets’ call this the first characteristic:

The Concept Density Effect

The word “usually” in this principle is troubling. It creates a condition for the transitive verb. “Usually” means there is a confident belief or strong hope that a particular event will occur but there is no assurance the event will occur.  The original principle developed by the Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 did not contain the adjective. In 1941 famous quality guru Joseph Juran discovered the work of Pareto and began to apply the Pareto principle to quality issues. In later years Juran preferred to refer to it as “the vital few and the trivial many” not “the vital few and the usually many”. Perhaps we have identified the second characteristic for separating a principle from a practice or a simple statement or idea:

The Conditional or Limiting Adjective Effect

 We covered meaning in Chapter One and concepts in Chapter Three.  The conclusions and processes presented, in those chapters, directly apply to our example principle if we are to understand the true meaning.  Employ one connotative definition for any of the concepts and the principle becomes something other than what the originator intended. Or maybe the originator failed to “define” the concepts contained within the principle. If this is the case then it will be wide open to interpretation.

Next post: The Transitive Verb Effect

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Principle Characteristics – The Third Effect

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

The third effect involves a transitive verb.

A transitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity. Second, it must have a direct object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb. In our example principle the action verb (lead) expresses the doable activities of results, outputs or rewards. In this specific example the principle is expressed via a structured complex of concepts and a transitive verb. We can change the 80/20 Principle by removing the transitive verb (lead) and replace it with the transitive verb ‘impacts’. A minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually impacts the majority of results, outputs or rewards. A minority of causes leading to a majority of results is not the same as a minority of causes impacting the majority of results. The former shows the way, the latter is a collision of circumstances, an important differentiation in a principle and a simple statement. Let’s call this the Transitive Verb Effect. A transitive verb is necessary in a principle and the verb that we choose for our principles may be critical.

In my next post, let’s apply what we have learned about concept content, conditional adjectives and transitive verbs. Perhaps we will discover another effect.

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Principle Examples – Part One

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

Let’s apply what we have learned about concept content, conditional adjectives and transitive verbs.  In 2001 J. Scott Armstrong wrote an excellent forty-nine page whitepaper entitled Standards and Practices for Forecasting. The Abstract for his paper says it best. The subject is weather forecasting.

One hundred and thirty-nine principles are used to summarize knowledge about forecasting.  They cover formulating a problem, obtaining information about it, selecting and applying methods, evaluating methods, and using forecasts. Each principle is described along with its purpose, the conditions under which it is relevant, and the strength and sources of evidence.  A checklist of principles is provided to assist in auditing the forecasting process.  An audit can help one find ways to improve the forecasting process and to avoid legal liability for poor forecasting.

Armstrong asks the question, why do you need 139 principles?  His reply, “You will not need all of them in any one situation. Nearly all of the principles are conditional on the characteristics of the situation. It would be misleading to write a book on “The Five Principles Used by Successful Forecasters. They could never be appropriate for all the different situations that can arise.” The title of Armstrong’s paper includes the two concepts; standards and practices. He then digresses by labeling the standards and practices, “principles”.  For example, lets’ take a look at one of his “principles”.

“When prior RESEARCH shows that an AREA is unlikely to BENEFIT, avoid formal FORECASTS.”

Although this “principle” utilizes four concepts (Research, Area, Benefit and Forecasts) and two transitive verbs (Shows and Avoid) it also contains two conditional adjectives (Unlikely, and Formal). The adjective ‘prior’ is directly linked to the concept ‘research’.  If we apply what we have learned so far we can conclude that this “principle” is a PRACTICE.  If we remove the conditional adjectives we get: When prior research shows that an area will not benefit, avoid forecasts.  We now have a non-connotative principle.

 As you may recall from chapter three regarding concepts. A principles connotation is analogous to a noun’s connotation. A noun’s connotation is its implied meaning, such as the emotions or images the word evokes.  Connotations may be (1) private and personal, the result of individual experiences (2) group (national, linguistic, racial) or (3) general or universal, held by all or most men. The scientist and philosopher attempt to hold words to their denotative meaning; the literary artist or management guru rely on connotations to carry their deepest meanings.

Connotative principles include one or more conditional adjectives that introduce bias that may come from within-industry or within-domain sources. The bias is often the result of professional association philosophical practices.  Connotative principles are practices.  Armstrong believed that all of his principles were conditional on the characteristics of the situation.  Would this not make them practices?

More good examples in my next post…

Principle Examples – Part Two

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

Moving on to another example, the next principle was gleaned from the stunning website of the Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee.  The site is presented by Dr. Henri D. Grissino-Mayer and is entitled The Ultimate Tree Ring Web Pages. If you select principles from the side bar on the left hand side of the home page you are taken to Principles of Dendrochronology. Following is the introductory paragraph.    (http://web.utk.edu/~grissino/principles.htm#4)

As with any science, dendrochronology is governed by a set of principles or “scientific rules.” These principles have their roots as far back as 1785 (the Principle of Uniformitarianism) and as recent as 1987 (the Principle of Aggregate Tree Growth). Some are specific to dendrochronology while others, like the Principle of Replication, are basic to many disciplines. All tree-ring research must adhere to these principles, or else the research could be flawed. However, before one can understand the principles, one needs to know basic definitions of terms used in tree-ring research.

Let’s proceed to the analysis of a couple of the principles presented on this web site.  The site stresses that all researchers must adhere to these principles, or else research could be flawed. The need for guiding principles is evident with universal application.

The Uniformitarian Principle

Physical and biological processes that link current environmental processes with current patterns of tree growth must have been in operation in the past.

Analysis:  The principle is concept dense with seven concepts. There is one transitive verb (have) with the modal verb (must). A modal verb indicates that something is compelled to do something because of a rule or law. There are no conditional adjectives associated with the transitive verb. The adjective “current” is directly linked to the concepts, ‘patterns and processes’. Our analysis supports the conclusion that this is indeed a principle. It clearly demonstrates the three effects; Concept Density, Conditional Adjective and Transitive Verb. Modal verbs help strengthen a principle.  We will call this:

The Modal Verb Effect

The Principle of Limiting Factors

Rates of plant processes are constrained by the primary environmental variable that is most limiting.

Analysis: The principle is concept dense with three concepts.  There is one transitive verb (rates) and no conditional or limiting adjectives. The word “rate” is also a concept so the principle actually contains four concepts.  All adjectives are directly linked to the associated concepts. No modal verbs. Conclusion: confirmed principle.

Next post: A summary of the Principle Effects

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Acknowledgements: Henri D. Grissino-Mayer

Principle Effects

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

With our attempt to answer some the questions proposed earlier, it is apparent that principles may have the same issues that plague concepts. They can be written clearly and have certain characteristics that make them rules to live by or they can be written in a connotative manner. We have identified the following effects that may have a positive or negative impact on a principle’s efficiency. Well written principles that meet Steven Coveys criteria of always pointing the way, not shifting or changing, applying at all times in all places and being objective and external would certainly have common characteristics. Characteristics, attributes or effects identified thus far can be used as a template for identifying, and writing principles.

The Concept Density Effect: This is a positive effect. Relevant concepts contained within the principle are the building blocks of a well written principle. One can almost understand the purpose of the principle by identifying the concepts in the principle as stated. The concepts should be related to the principles field of knowledge (Domain).

The Conditional or Limiting Adjective Effect: This is a negative effect. One or more conditional adjectives firmly consign the principle to the category of being connotative and fundamentally transform’s the principle into a practice.  The adjective attaches conditions under which the principle will apply.  This effect has the most impact on making the principle a “Non-Covey” principle.

The Transitive Verb Effect: This is a positive effect. The very nature of a transitive verb makes it a necessity for a principle. A principle must be active and that action must be directed at a subject, preferably a relevant concept.

The Modal Verb Effect:  This can be a either a positive or a negative effect.  The right modal verb can strengthen a principle or once again transform it into a practice. The most common modal verbs are; Can, Could, May, Might, Must, Ought to, Shall, Should, Will and Would. Only one modal verb is appropriate for a principle – Must. Any of the other modal verbs create a negative effect.

In addition to effects, all principles must have a purpose and must to be associated with the field of knowledge or domain of origin. (Is this a principle?)

Next post – Questions answered.

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Principle Questions — Answered

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.

_______________________________________________________________

Returning to the questions proposed earlier in this chapter…

How would we identify and extract principles from a book or white paper? 

Identifying concepts is rather straight forward; we just look for the nouns. Identifying principles is another matter.  We need to be trained to hunt for principles.  Hunting is not always successful; a minimum requirement is the existence of that which is hunted.  Using the criteria presented in this chapter can help but the job of presenting knowledge in the form of a principle is the responsibility of the individual espousing to communicate that knowledge. I am striving to do just that in this book. Well written principles are the essence of knowledge linked to a particular domain and its concepts.

When we fail to clearly identify principles we create a void of poor comprehension that will not lead to action.

What are the essential elements or characteristics of a principle?

The key elements are: Concepts relevant to the field of knowledge being addressed; Transitive verbs that focus the concepts on a doable activity associated with a direct object; The absence of limiting or conditional adjectives as modifiers to the transitive verb; The absence of modal verbs (exception: must).  And finally, a principle and associated domain without purpose is very difficult to execute with meaning.

What’s the difference in a principle and a practice or just a statement?

The condition of having the essential elements or characteristics is what separates the principle from a practice or statement. Intrinsically the principle applies universally and a practice only applies under certain conditions.

Are principles action-oriented?

By virtue of a transitive verb a principle is inherently action oriented.

Do all principles always contain at least one concept? 

A principle without concepts is a simple statement of practice. Concept density is a requirement; high density translates to powerful principles.

Can a principle be used as a tool; can it be put to work?

The correct application of principles is the foundation of execution.

How would we write one? 

There are essentially six steps.

  1. Associate a domain of interest.
  2. Identify the purpose of the domain.
  3. Identify all key concept nouns that are associated with the domain.
  4. Connect the concepts with transitive verbs in a coherent way.
  5. Utilize the modal word – must – if appropriate.
  6. Avoid conditional or limiting adjectives.

A simple example…

Domain: Survival

Sub Domain: Surviving on the Road in Cold Environmental Conditions

Sub Domain Purpose: Avoiding frostbite on the road.

Key Concepts: TIRES, SNOW, STORM, GLOVES, FROST-BITE

Our PrincipleGLOVES must be worn while changing a flat TIRE during a SNOW STORM to avoid FROST-BITE.

Acquiring knowledge is not possible without principles and associated allied concepts. A poorly stated principle leaves the reader possessing keen insight and perception unbalanced.  The Principle Effects outlined in the chapter arm the reader with the tools to hunt for, identify and write principles. Finally, a principle and associated domain without purpose is very difficult to execute with meaning.

The next chapter on paradigms is the third component of a construct that I have labeled the ConPriDigm TM which is also the domain name for this blogged book. The reader will learn that principles and paradigms are closely associated. In fact, the example presented in this chapter regarding tree-ring research is an example of a paradigm. Dr. Grissino-Mayer gives us a hint: “As with any science, tree-ring research is governed by a set of principles or “scientific rules” that must be adhered to or else all research could be flawed.” Paradigms can paralyze an organization or they can shift with new scientific discoveries and/or knowledge.  They are a critical component of the ConPriDigm TM (Concepts, Principles, and Paradigms).

Please enjoy the concept map for principles.

PRINCIPLES DEC 2013

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