Principles: Work Principles 5 (part 9 of 14)


If you are inside Bridgewater, I am passing these principles on in my own words so that you can see the dream and the approach through my eyes. Bridgwater will evolve from where it si now based on what you and others in the next generation of leadership want and how you go about getting it. This book is intended to help you. How you use it is up to you. Whether or not this culture continues is up to you and those who succeed me in the leadership role. it is my responsibility to not be attached to Bridgewater being the way I would want it to be. It is most important that you and others who succeed me make your own independent choices. Like a parent with adult children, I want you all to be strong, independent thinkers who will do well without me. I have done my best to bring you to this point; now is the time for you to step up and for me to fade away.

If you are outside Bridgewater and thinking about how these principles might apply to your organization, this book is meant to prompt your thinking, not give you an exact formula to follow. You don’t have to adopt all or any of these principles, thought I do recommend that you consider them all. Many people who run other organizations have adopted some of these principles, modified others, and rejected many. Whatever you want to do with them is fine with me. These principles provide a framework you can modify to suit your needs. Maybe you will pursue the same goal and maybe you won’t; chances are that, in either case, you will collect some valuable stuff. If you share my goal of having your organization be a real idea meritocracy, I believe this book will be invaluable for you because I’m told that no organization has thought through or pushed the concepts of how to make a real idea meritocracy as far as Bridgwater. If doing that is important to you and you pursue it with unwavering determination you will encounter your own barriers, you will find your own ways around them, and you will get there, even if imperfectly.

While these principles are good general rules, it’s important to remember that every run has exceptions and that no set of rules can ever substitute for common sense. Think of these principles as being like a GPS. A GPS helps you get where you’re going, but if you follow it blindly off a bridge – well, that would be your fault, not the GPS’s. And just as a GPS that gives bad directions can be fixed by updating its software, it’s important to raise and discuss exceptions to the principles as they occur so they can evolve and improve over time.

No matter what path you choose to follow, your organization is a machine made up of culture and people that will interact to produce outcomes, and those outcomes will provide feedback about how well your organization is working. Learning from this feedback should lead you to modify the culture and the people so your organizational machine improves.

This dynamic is so important that I’ve organized Work Principles around three sections: To Get the Culture Right, To Get the People Right, and To Build and Evolve Your Machine. Each chapter within these sections begins with a higher-level principle. Reading these will give you a good sense of the main concepts of each chapter.

Under these higher-level principles there are a number of supporting principles built around the many different types of decisions that need to be made. These principles are meant for reference. Though you might want to skim through them, I recommend using them as one would use an encyclopedia or search engine to answer a specific question. For example, if you have to fire (or transfer) someone, you should use the Table of Principles and go to the section of principles about that. To make this easier, at Bridgewater we created a tool called the “Coach” that allows people to type in their particular issue and find the appropriate principles to help them with it. I will soon be making that available to the public, along with many of the other management tools you’ll read about in the final section of the book.

My main objective is not to sell you on these principles but to share the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over my more than forty-year journey. My goal is to get you to think hard about the tough tradeoffs that you will face in many types of situations. By thinking about the tradeoffs behind the principles, you will be able to decide for yourself which principles are best for you.

This brings me to my find work principle:

Make your passion and your work one and the same and do it with people you want to be with.

Work is either 1) a job you do to earn the money to pay for the life you wan to have or 2) what you do to achieve your mission, or some mix of the two. I urge you to make it as much 2) as possible, recognizing the value of 1). If you do that, most everything will go better than if you don’t.

Work Principles is written for those for whom work is primarily the game that you play to follow your passion and achieve your mission.