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.