A matter of principle

Somebody said to me recently that because I have spent over 30 years working with architects, I must be quite knowledgeable about design.  The truth is I know very little about building design, but if I had to describe what successful design is, I’d say that it provides something that works well for everyone, can be adapted to the needs of future generations, has integrity and looks great. It also needs to have a strong foundation, supporting framework, and be sustainable…. I know this because many of the elements of a successful building design are also key to successful business design.

The introduction of the Wates Corporate Principles Governance for Large Private Companies at the end of 2018 was the first time we have seen a governance code being applied to private companies in the UK (those with more than 2,000 employees and/or who have a turnover of £200 million).

Although Hyphen doesn’t need to comply with them (our size and turnover are under the threshold for compliance), it is difficult to argue why we wouldn’t want to. There is competitive advantage to be gained by bringing a greater transparency about our governance to our clients and other stakeholders.  It demonstrates that we are a well-governed, viable and sustainable business in the long term and supports the commitment to our values “we have integrity” and “we stand for quality”. The principles are also clearly written, easy to understand and flexible enough for us to adopt.

The Wates Principles are resolute, with supporting guidance, and are undoubtedly a significant and positive step towards greater assurance of good corporate governance both now, and in the future.

However, whilst the Wates Principles are sound and reflect good business practice, I can’t help but feel a sense of familiarity. When you begin to look at the underlying principles of other frameworks that already exist for supporting and promoting sustainable, efficient business practice you can begin to see the similarities.

This became immediately apparent to me when considering the fundamentals of ISO 9000:2015  (the principles of which are applied to the quality management standard ISO 9001:2015, providing the compliance framework for Hyphen’s Quality Management System).

Without examining the Wates principles in any great detail, here are just a few examples:

Purpose and Leadership versus ISO 9000 2.3.2 leadership 

Both principles emphasise the importance of establishing the company purpose and direction, and to ensure that company strategies align with this.  They also talk about the importance of establishing shared values, to inform ethical behaviour.  Both principles state that this comes from the position of effective leadership, and that business leaders should be positive examples to the people in the organisation, establishing a culture of trust and integrity.

Opportunity and risk versus ISO 9000 2.2.5 support

The importance of identifying opportunities to benefit the company and addressing the identification and mitigation of risks is evident in both principles.

ISO 9000 highlights one of the key benefits in focusing on business improvement as being able to react to internal and external risks and opportunities.  The Wates principles promote long term business value and link this to the consideration of risks and opportunities as a means to preserve this.

Stakeholder relationships and engagement versus ISO 9000 2.3.7 Relationship management

A relationship built on trust and meaningful engagement with stakeholders is emphasised in both principles.  A common understanding of objectives and values amongst “interested parties” is mentioned in ISO 9000, whilst the Wates principle refers to the importance of considering the impact of a company’s activities on current and future stakeholders.

To conclude…

I will never be knowledgeable about architectural design. I don’t need to be, it’s already in the safe hands of Hyphen’s expert professional teams.  I do know however that the future of quality management relies on effective governance.  But then, by focusing on quality management we are already raising our governance standards and taking great steps to achieve and implement the Wates Principles.

Have you found similarities between the Wates Principles and the other existing frameworks for supporting and promoting sustainable, efficient business? Let’s discuss.