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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Rules Are Hard To Eliminate

Robert Stevenson blog - always challenge the rules

Why are some rules, polices, procedures or business practices that are obsolete or dead, still being followed? Researchers have found that once a “RULE” is written down and used in a company, it is very difficult to be eliminated … even though the original reason(s) for it being created has disappeared. The “RULE” becomes the LAW, not to be challenged by anyone. It seems that employees who challenge or question rules are seen as troublemakers or agitators, who are viewed negatively by senior management. That type of business culture will eventually devastate any company.

FOLLOW THIS TRAIN OF THOUGHT: We make a rule based on reason(s) that make a lot of sense. We follow the rule religiously and because of the rule, things work great. As in all cases, time passes, things change, and the original reason(s) for the rule may no longer exist. That being stated – Why do we continue to follow it?

There is a lot of pressure in business for employees to “Follow the Rules.” We learn the importance of following rules as a child from our parents and then it is reinforced strongly in our educational system. As a consequence, people feel more comfortable following rules rather than challenging them; it becomes embedded in our brain to deal with things as they are, not as they could be.

Smart managers understand that creative thinking involves not only generating new ideas, but “escaping” from the obsolete ones as well. If we don’t challenge the existing RULE, three obvious problems can occur:

  • We get locked into a rule or policy that is no longer working effectively

  • When things don’t work effectively it ends up costing time and money

  • Employees get frustrated following a rule or policy that no longer works

Make it Stand Operating Procedure that anyone can challenge a “RULE.” Let everyone know that this is seen by senior management as being proactive; showing the initiative of trying to help improve the company. I see nothing wrong with that! One way to do it, is simply ask the question: “Why did this rule, policy, procedure or business practice come to be?” Once you get the answer, follow-up with this question: “Do those reasons still exist?” If the answer is “NO”…then eliminate it.

One manager I read about has employees (anonymously) write down any rues, policies or procedures they feel are no longer effective. If he gets several people coming up with exactly the same thing, they focus on improving or eliminating it.

Periodically have Rule-Inspecting or Rule-Eliminating meetings. If you can’t give a valid reason why any RULE exits…then trash it. Smart management is not only getting everyone to think creatively, but to also think destructively. Destroy, eliminate, remove anything that no longer serves a purpose and reward those who bring them to your attention.


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