skip to Main Content


Alan Williams tells the story of the evolution of the 31Practices approach after receiving an award for Employee Engagement at the 2015 ABP Workforce Experience Awards.

12th May 2015, the Oval, London. There we were, Tamsin Parker, Director of People & Culture, LifeSearch and I, receiving the award for Employee Engagement at the ABP Workforce Experience Awards Dinner.  Of course, gaining recognition is always an honour, but this was more meaningful.

Some years ago (so many in fact, that it was in the last century!), I was MD of a five star hotel and was introduced to the Daily Basics programme, created by Ritz Carlton and adopted by Marriott Hotels globally.  This involved a set of 23 service-based behaviours, and the way it worked was that every employee (across 3,000 Marriott hotels) focused on one Basic each day.  The positive impact of this simple approach was the inspiration to create and develop the 31Practices approach, which now helps translate organisations’ stated values into the practical day to day behaviour of employees.  The Practices are explicitly connected to the organisation’s values and the combination of mindful and daily repeated practice embeds the behaviour over time.  As a result, the values are lived… every day.

From theory to print

31PracticesbookcoverThe 31Practices approach always had a positive impact on customer satisfaction, employee engagement, employee retention and sales and profit when applied in my leadership roles with a number of service organisations. It was therefore a logical development to provide this approach as part of the range of services of the Servicebrand Global consultancy offer, which started in 2005.

However, although I knew that the 31Practices approach worked, I wanted something more substantive than my word and an operational track record. I set about finding somebody from the world of psychology and was recommended to Alison Whybrow, an award winning Chartered and Registered Psychologist with particular focus on organizational design.  In a matter of months, we had agreed to write a book about the 31Practices approach – and this was published not much more than a year later in UK (October 2013), and then in US in July 2014.




The LifeSearch Project

The project with LifeSearch began after Tamsin attended CIPD13 in Manchester, where I delivered a 31Practices workshop session.  Tamsin was looking for a tried and tested means to really connect employees with the LifeSearch values in a practical, meaningful way as the third stage of their Awaken, Connect… Action “trilogy”. The LifeSearch 31Practices were launched in July 2014 and the results speak for themselves:

  • Customer facing sales-advisers attrition rate 21% (39%).
  • Customer Satisfaction 95.6% (91.6% )
  • Weekly policy completion +104 .
  • “Inspiration score” for Practice of the day 91%
  • Improvement ideas 174 – 73% actioned.

But, for me, just as powerful as these statistics is this quote from Chloe Arnold, Tele-Interviewer: “To be honest, I never really quite knew what culture and values meant. The culture statement that was agreed really feels like what I want my work life to be and it does feel like that day to day and not in a preachy, rammed down your throat kind of way” – very different from the employee reaction to many traditional “HR” and “Communications” led projects.

Spreading the word… and the practice

This is why the ABP award was a major milestone for 31Practices and, in some ways, represents the completion of a journey – from an intuitive, practical, high impact approach used in business to an approach that is also robustly grounded in psychology theory and recognised by experts.  But, in other ways, it is by no means the end of a journey… far from it.  The book is due to be published in Korea in the autumn and the next step is to build a network of licensed Practitioners – people or organisations who believe in a values-based approach, have excellent group facilitation skills and a network of potential clients.  To date, there has been interest from people as far and wide as Australia, Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Korea, Portugal and US.

So that’s the 31Practices story, and it makes me wonder what other practices are out there in business that are having a positive practical impact but are not fully understood from an applied psychology perspective.  Perhaps there is an opportunity to find ways to bring together the worlds of business and psychology in a similar way to the 31Practices journey for mutual benefit.

About the author


Alan Williams is a consultant operator and change agent, specialising in inspiring service for competitive advantage internationally and in UK.  He is a published author and speaker, steering group member of UK Values Alliance, founder Faculty Member of Culture University, and Director of the British Quality Foundation.

About the photographs

The photography in The 31 Practices book is by Matthieu Ricard whose Karuna Shechen foundation supports communities in Nepal, Tibet and India.

The book cover image was taken at the sacred dance festival at Trongsar Monastery, Bhutan, in 2007. The photograph at the top of this article is from Chapter 3: The Journey.Even in August, the path around the sacred mountains of the Amnye Machen range in the Golok province in eastern Tibet remains covered in snow. With its peak rising 18,000 feet above sea level, the mountain is regarded as one of the holiest in Tibet. Thousands of pilgrims trek around it each year, taking as long as nine days to do so. The mountain’s melted snows become the Yellow River, the great mother waterway of China. 2001.

Alan will be donating 5% of proceeds from 2015 31Practices projects to support Karuna Shechen work in Nepal after this year’s earthquakes and encourages any similar assistance to support the recovery there – from donations to relevant charitable organisations to booking a trekking holiday.

Back To Top