The Power of Guiding Principles (Digital Transformation Framework – Part II)

The Power of Guiding Principles (Digital Transformation Framework – Part II)

In the second of our Karma Framework series, we will discuss Guiding Principles and their value to an organization, engagement, or project. For an overview of the Karma Advisory Digital Transformation Framework, visit our site to see the first part of our series or view the LinkedIn Post.

Karma Advisory Digital Transformation Framework

What are Guiding Principles?

Principles, values, or clarifying statements serve to focus and simplify decision-making in projects. Guiding Principles are living statements, and as the project goes on — their meaning and nuance are codified.

What are the benefits?

Enhance Decision-Making Dynamics

When everyone is clear and in agreement about what they value, decisions become more streamlined. Guiding principles provide a clear framework, reducing second-guessing and scope for conflict. In addition, they provide unambiguous language to remind all stakeholders of what they agreed to in the past.

Build Authentic Resonance

When decisions align with predefined principles, they resonate more with the stakeholders involved. This fosters trust and ensures that decisions are in line with the organization and program values and objectives.

Identify Potential Points of Friction 

If certain decisions do not align with the Guiding Principles, it serves as an early warning system. It is an indication that there might be underlying issues that need addressing, whether it is re-evaluating the decision itself or the principles that guide it.

Foster a Cohesive Team and Dynamic

With clear guiding principles, teams work more harmoniously. There is a shared understanding, mutual respect, and a common direction, making collaboration more fruitful.

When should a team figure out guiding principles?

The ideal scenario is to come up with an initial list of guiding principles in the beginning — in doing so, stakeholders can debate what they explicitly value, ensuring transparency and mutual understanding.

These debates around what the team values will continue to be tested against deliverables throughout the project. Sometimes the original principles are accurate and other times they need to be made more precise or broader.

What is an example of a Guiding Principle?

One example is the Guiding Principle of data integrity. Often, you will see this principle defined to mean “ensure accuracy and consistency of data.” However, to really understand this principle, the team needs to dig deeper and understand the implications from various perspectives:

  • From a technology perspective – To maintain data integrity, the team needs to look at data systems to reduce manual entry, leverage systems of record as much as possible, and institute quality assurance in technology processes where appropriate.

  • From an operations perspective – To maintain data integrity, the team needs to look at operations and consider training, standard operating procedures, and implementation of quality assurance and quality control processes.

It is very important to consider a principle from a 360-degree perspective — this enables a simple statement to provide clarity throughout all facets of a project.

Key Takeaways

While decisions are not always black and white, Guiding Principles help make the implicit explicit – ensuring decisions are consistently oriented in a mutually understood direction. As important as the upfront work of setting clear Guiding Principles, they can and should also continually be revisited as a project evolves through its natural lifecycle.

We hope guiding principles can support your organization in getting things done! Be on the lookout for the next in our series.

About Karma Advisory

Karma Advisory works at the intersection of business and technology for both public and private sector clients. We are focused on helping organizations translate their business needs into actionable technology solutions. We work with our client’s teams to understand their goals and on-the-ground realities and work side-by-side to implement solutions. We strive to be an objective, trusted, and results-driven partner — bringing a values-driven approach to working with our clients to achieve their vision and goals.  

We look forward to speaking with you, sharing more about our work, and learning more about your organization. Visit us at or reach out at

Digital Transformation Framework – Part I

Digital Transformation Framework – Part I

In today’s constantly evolving digital world, organizations must align their strategies, data, security, and core principles. At Karma Advisory, we believe this alignment should be the primary focus of any initiative from the very beginning. We prioritize building trust by listening to our clients and working closely with key stakeholders. Our Digital Transformation Framework has proven to be a powerful tool for solving crucial technology challenges and ensuring solutions are future-proof. 

Our Approach of Humility

Every business faces various challenges, some of which may not be openly discussed or easily discovered. At Karma Advisory, we understand the significance of the knowledge shared by our partners and avoid having preconceived notions. Instead, we come ready to listen and learn, acknowledging our clients are the experts in their business and have critical insights necessary for the success of any program. 

The Danger of Oversimplification

Consultants offer fresh perspectives and valuable experience, but sometimes the temptation to compartmentalize challenges into fixed methodologies can lead to oversimplification. At Karma Advisory, we appreciate the value of methodologies, but we also understand organizational challenges are complex and nuanced. We are passionate about delving into the details, asking relevant questions, and refining our thought processes and solutions along the way. 

Karma Advisory Digital Transformation Framework

At Karma Advisory, we perceive digital transformation as the alignment of strategy, data, security, and core principles. Our Framework is represented graphically below, followed by a breakdown of the four leading success factors in our Framework. 

Karma Advisory Digital Transformation Framework

Strategic and Policy Alignment: At the top of our framework, understanding the ‘why’ of an initiative is crucial. This ‘why’ gives direction to teams and motivates them to address challenges. By understanding the strategy and aligning it with policy we can create effective messaging and maintain focus. 

Data and Security Alignment: Anchored at the foundation, data alignment signifies the lifeblood of any institution. A team’s operation generates data, which needs to be transformed first into information and then insights. To do this, we understand that legacy systems, ambiguous data definitions, and the rapid evolution of technology can prove to be challenging for transformation projects. In addition, when discussing data, in today’s digitization of operations we believe security is no longer simply a technology requirement or compliance activity, but an organizational cornerstone. 

Guiding Principles: Think of these as the compass of an institution. Positioned to the left, these principles are pivotal in steering decisions, underpinning project mandates, and ensuring everyone is aligned with the project’s goals, aims, and scope. 

Iterative Improvements: Whether it be governance structure, business processes, or training and change management, the ethos that enables success is iterative. Ongoing improvements, or in other words, the small wins, create compound returns. At Karma Advisory, we take a whole lifecycle approach to solution development. Our senior resources roll up their sleeves to understand current challenges, capture future-state goals, develop a plan for meeting those goals, and most importantly, execute projects to deliver value iteratively. 

Be on the lookout for the next part of this series where we will dive deeper into the components of our Framework.

Karma Advisory works at the intersection of business and technology for both public and private sector clients. We are focused on helping organizations translate their business needs into actionable technology solutions. We work with our clients’ teams to understand their goals and on-the-ground realities and work side-by-side to implement solutions. We strive to be an objective, trusted, and results-driven partner — bringing a values-driven approach to working with our clients to achieve their vision and goals.

We look forward to speaking with you, sharing more about our work, and learning more about your organization. Visit us at or reach out at

A Culture Shift: Appreciation

A Culture Shift: Appreciation

The old adage says, “What you appreciate, appreciates.”

Problem Finding Machines:

In the day-to-day of work, we become habituated to finding problems, and hopefully solving those problems.

In some ways, we become problem finding machines, and this creates a mindset — we look at processes, we look at technology and we look at people and we try to make things work better. This is not good or bad, rather it is simply an important aspect of accomplishing any goal.

A Mindset:

With the intent of solving problems — we can and do take on a mindset. A mindset that finds issues and risks; and, tries to ensure these countless impediments or underlying cultural challenges do not prevent clients from meeting their goals.

Over the days, months and sometimes years — these challenges — cultural and implementation — can feel like a swarm of mosquitoes, that continue to drain teams of their energy and enthusiasm. The heartbreak for a team or individual is to know they are making progress, but losing their energy as they swim against underlying currents of cultural, communication and leadership challenges.

An Experiment

We decided to experiment with our team meeting to see if we could create the conditions for a new sense of well being by temporarily shifting the focus from problem-finding-solving machines to instead seek what we are grateful for in the day-to-day grind.

We gathered for our weekly team meeting, and instead of status check-ins with issues and risks we conducted an “Appreciation Meeting.”

In this meeting, we each shared words of gratitude to one and other for their actions, their character, or their way of being. We also focused on bringing up what we are grateful for with the work we do, and the clients we have the opportunity to work with.

The Results

As we went around the circle, and shared with one and other words of appreciation. We each felt the initial discomfort, followed by feelings of connection and camaraderie not only for one and other, but also the positive aspects of our work.

In any given workplace, there are countless challenges — from culture and leadership to strategy and operations; there are also countless positive conditions — from humorous encounters to small and bigger wins.

The real challenge is to create the internal capacity to continue identifying and solving problems, while also being keenly aware of the positive aspects of the day-to-day work.

Satya Nadella: A Servant Leader?

Satya Nadella: A Servant Leader?

Ever since I read Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, I have had a curiosity about the leadership of Microsoft. Bill Gates was seemingly an intellectual leader. Steve Balmer seemed like an autocratic leader. And, then came along Satya Nadella.

As an Indian American with parents from South Africa and Fiji, seeing Nadella as the leader of Microsoft is inspiring. From the little I have seen of him, he seems to be a different type of leader.

So when I read the article from The Economist, “What Satya Nadella did at Microsoft” I was very curious.

Note: All quotes in the article are from

Enter Satya Nadella:

Create the Conditions to be Agile: Embracing Obstacles vs. Trying to Kill Them

Since as far as I can remember, Microsoft has revolved around its crown jewel: Microsoft Windows. Under Nadella that has clearly shifted to an ecosystem-agnostic approach, whereby users are encouraged on any platform.

Technologies come and go, he says, so “we need a culture that allows you to constantly renew yourself”.

Given that Balmer used to call Linux a cancer, I can only imagine the depth of change this was at Microsoft to hear from its leader.

Leading through Power vs. Leading through Hearts & Minds

Gate’s used to often say, “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”

Balmer used to run across the stage yelling “I love this company.”

With Gates or Balmer, by using language to create strong dichotomies or generalities, a couple things can occur within the culture:

  1. Employees may be afraid of being wrong or say something in contract to the leader
  2. Managers may treat subordinates accordingly
  3. A culture of rightness and wrongness emerges which stifles innovation.

On the other hand with Nadella, he can often be seen sitting in the audience, listening.

In many ways this style of leadership seems to revolve around something deeper — a slow and steady wins the race approach.

Mr Nadella doesn’t seem to be worried by such unknowns, which are to be expected in a fast-changing industry.

Instead, he frets about too much success. “When you have a core that’s growing at more than 20%, that is when the rot really sets in,” he says.

A statement such as this is so counter culture— it seems filled with a sense of stoicism — a dispassionate and unattached objectivity to the realities of rapidly changing times.

The leadership will require a steady hand that is focused on the long game. I am curious to see how Nadella will steer this ship.

Originally posted on Karma Advisory’s medium page here.

Bringing Awarness to Unconscious Bias

Bringing Awarness to Unconscious Bias

We all have biases. The most important step we can take as leaders is to bring awareness to our biases to ensure our decisions are based in objective truths as much as possible.

The below list is excellent for reflecting on and reviewing during key decisions, or even to see who you are being on a day-to-day basis in work (and, life)!

  • Affinity bias – The tendency to gravitate towards people who remind us of ourselves.
  • Halo effect – The tendency to always see someone in a positive light because of their title or because you like them.
  • Perception bias – The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make objective decision making impossible.
  • Confirmation bias – The tendency for people to only seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs or assumptions.
  • Group-think – The tendency for people to go along with the group rather than voicing their individual thoughts and beliefs.

Source: UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Program Director of Executive Development, Horace McCormick, Jr. via Google Beats Unconscious Bias by Teaching Its Employees These 4 Tactics

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