Unfolding plans 139 – we need fewer rules

First break all the rules.  That is what the book said.  If this is a rule then should we break it?  First stick to all the rules? It’s all a bit confusing.  There are too many rules, too many regulations.  I can’t be expected to know them all yet every time we are faced with a problem we add another rule.

We need fewer rules.

Whenever there is a problem at work our default position is to add bureaucracy.  We layer on process and procedures.  We produce incomprehensible documents that spell out exactly how we should function.  We have pages and pages of illegible policy.  Most of them go unread.  We are not allowed to think for ourselves.  What has happened?

We need less management and more leadership.

We don’t need more rules, we don’t need more management and we don’t need more instruction.  We need fewer rules, we need more leadership and we need more understanding.  Above all though we need more trust.  We need to trust adults to act like adults.  We need to encourage them to make their own minds up.  We should expect them to be able to work it out for themselves.  If they can’t then it is too complicated.

It may seem counterintuitive but rules have a limited role in regulation.  Once over the threshold there are too many and so they get ignored.  Rules are made to be broken.  The best rules are simple, intuitive and easy to follow.  The best number of rules is just enough.  One more is too many.

We should start a campaign to get rid of rules.  We need to get rid of just enough until there are just enough.

How many rules do you have at home?  How many policies and procedures have you documented?  Do you have a home intranet to which you can refer should anyone transgress?

I imagine you have very few (and no intranet).  How about ‘tidy up after you’, ‘respect other’s property’ and ‘do your share of the work’?  That is probably enough rules.  If someone breaks them then tell them.  If someone lets you down then let them know how you feel.  There is no need to invent more rules.

If a family can get along with such a small number of rules then why can’t we do so at work?   Nordstrom, an American clothing chain, issue all of their people with a simple instruction.  ‘Use good judgement in all situations.’  It is not even a rule but rather a piece of sound advice.  This is part of their success.  They trust their people.  They have fewer rules.

Here are some suggested rules for when you are at work:

Be clear about the purpose of your organisation.  If you don’t understand anything then ask. Always try to do your best.  Always consider better ways to do what you are doing.

That should cover it.  I might also add ‘Imagine you are the customer’.

Don’t be tempted to keep adding rules.  Start to pare them away.  Set yourself and your colleagues free.

That’s the rule.

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