What are Tenets?. Tenets are things that people can refer to at times of uncertainty. Tenets are simple sayings, guidelines or rules that are easy to remember and recall when needed. Google for example has a saying that employees use as a guideline when they are making day-to-day decisions. Google’s single tenet is “Don’t be evil”.
At Tae-kwon do the tenets are “Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, Indomitable Spirit.” The tenets in this case are how the founder of Tae-kwon do expected his students to live their lives.
For tenets to work in a company they have to be universally known. This means that they have to be in the lunch room, on the web site or generally in places where employees see them on a regular basis. I have pictures of my wife and kids on the wall behind my terminal so that I see them every time I look up. It helps remind me that family comes first.
When a company has tenets it helps employees focus on common goals and makes it easier for customers to differentiate company A from company B. One of the companies I worked at claimed that it was trying to improve communication while making technology disappear. Tenets are not always achieved immediately but are more like the definition of the end game. That would be the case with the company I just mentioned. It is not possible to make all technology disappear at the moment but it is something that may be achieved in the next few years.
So tenets can be general like “Don’t be evil” or more specific like “Make technology disappear.” For start-up companies that may have a pivot in their near future, the more general approach is perhaps safest. I think that General Choi had it right when he wrote down the tenets for Tae-kwon do. If we apply the tenets of Tae-kwon do to what we do at work, I would suggest to you that our work environments would be a much better place.