Most rules are unnecessary

HumanergyDiscipline Flexibility StandardsMost rules are unnecessary




Most rules are unnecessary

Let’s just clear this up, for those of you who are rule followers: Yes, there are a few rules that organizations need in order to comply with the law and create necessary structure and standards. Other than a scant supply of dictates, what more do you really need? (Even Moses came back down the mountain with only 10 commandments!)

The whole question of rules was reinforced by a blog called “What Every Manager Should Know About Managing Gen Y.” It advised leaders to create ‘Gen Y-friendly rules.” In fact, the authors recommend that you review all rules that people seem to try to work around.

Better yet, put all rules on the chopping block. Start with these:

Rules you can’t or won’t enforce. If people are breaking a rule right and left, ditch it. Either it’s impossible to enforce or the organizational will isn’t there. Lack of enforcement promotes cynicism and apathy about rules in general, even the ones you really need.

Rules that upper management folks break. If rules apply to some and not to others, get rid of them. Selective enforcement of the rules contributes to a toxic work environment.

Rules that don’t help you achieve your goals. We could insist that all of our staff maintain X hours of office time. We don’t because we realize that time in the office has little, if any, relationship to our goal – delighted clients. Keep your eyes on the prize and only create rules that are necessary for achieving it.

Rules that are micromanagement in disguise. Rules that tell people what to do and how to do it should raise alarm bells. Instead of dictating the “whats” and “hows,” only require that people orient towards the right goals and adhere to your ethical standards. Then let them exercise judgment and creativity in their work.

There are some pretty outrageous rules out there, if online postings are to be believed. Even if your policies don’t include a requirement that you give 2-weeks’ notice before dying, you may want to review your list. There may be some oppressive or just unnecessary rules that are doing your organization more harm than good.

Lots of rules may be an indicator that you’re spending way too much time on the activity of work – what you will DO. When your focus in on what you will ACHIEVE, you need fewer rules. Organizations can’t dictate their way into success – that requires an unrelenting focus on where you’re going and the crucial few non-negotiable rules that will help you get there.

Have a question about this topic or want some input from Humanergy? Contact us!

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Comments (2)

  1. Amen! As an avowed “rule challenger” I find your take quite refreshing. A solid hiring process married to clear goals and ethical standards will result in a more vibrant organization that taps into the creativity, energy and passion of its employees…ah, if only there were more organizations willing to explore their “Rule Books”…

  2. Hi. The Irish in me is not favourably disposed to rules, particularly those that are meaningless or simply counterproductive. However, having lived with rules for all my working life and observed how people deal, or do not deal, with rules, I am inclined not to dismiss the importance of rules in a number of situations, not least in a range of human behaviours, including the various ways in which we interact. I like to think of rules as ” guidance “.However, I am also well aware that there are situations, such as health and safety, where rules have to be mandatory ( that is, no exceptions ). In my experience, many people like rules and the apparent certainty they seem to provide. That puts a large onus on simplicity and clarity, as well as on the unambiguous implementation of any rules. I agree with the above observations and wish that life was like that. But, despite all our efforts, we still witness lack of clarity in organisation goals and objectives and the associated lack of adequate performance information and reinforcement throughout many organisations. Effective communication in relation to, and review of, rules are essential. We should be careful not to throw both baby and bathwater out the window.

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