Posted On: Friday, 25 March 2011 by Rajiv Popat

Random Thoughts On Policies:

Someone 's downloading movies.... lets block the internet!

Someone 's coming in late and leaving early.... lets punch timecards!

Someone 's taking a CAB instead of a subway.... let's do a travel policy document!

Someone 's wearing T-Shirts instead of ties.... a policy on dress code!

The folks at 37 Signals have this to say about policies in their book Rework:

Don't scar on the first cut. The second something goes wrong, the natural tendency is to create a policy. "Someone's wearing shorts!? We need a dress code!" No, you don't. You just need to tell John not to wear shorts again. Policies are organizational scar tissue. They are codified overreactions to situations that are unlikely to happen again. They are collective punishment for the misdeeds of an individual. This is how bureaucracies are born. No one sets out to create a bureaucracy. They sneak up on companies slowly. They are created one policy--one scar--at a time. So don't scar on the first cut. Don't create a policy because one person did something wrong once. Policies are only meant for situations that come up over and over again.

The classic story of most policies is the same:

  1. Someone does something stupid.
  2. The organization over reacts and writes an equally stupid policy.

It's a classic two way street for turning intrinsic motivation into hard core ruthless professionalism.

It's like paying your mother in law for a gorgeous dinner and a surprise party she planned for you.

Between steps one and two are all other innocent clueless employees wondering what the f@#ck just happened and scrambling for information.

Every time you find yourself making a policy, your management and  recruitment teams have failed pathetically and hired a bunch of moronic sheep who need herding instead of hiring engineers.

That or your organization just doesn't know how to talk to people and communicate problems openly, candidly and act strongly in certain situations.

Either ways, it's a problem that no policy can solve in long run.

Most of your policies aren't going to fix anything. They're two way streets for stupidities involving a couple of stupid employees and equally stupid organizational reactions.

Replace every single rule or policy in your organization with an intrinsic social norm which appeals to the goodness of your people and you'll have an organization that changes the world.  And if you can't appeal to their goodness, why are they still working in your organization?

Just a little something to think about.

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