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Do Rules Rule?

 A lot of people don't like rules in an organization, but they are necessary to maintain order, efficiency and even accountability and fairness.  A company or organization without rules will lack consistency and eventually fail due to the absence of structure.  However, In order to be of maximum benefit and respectfully observed, it is important to allow flexibility as well.  

I'm not advocating "rule-breaking", but I am encouraging people to be sensitive and aware to times when a rule may not need to be applied.  I know that may sound strange coming from a lawyer and a judge, but even judges look to the "spirit of the law" in application of justice for the litigants before them.  No one wants to strictly apply a rule that doesn't make sense in it's context.  One must use discretion. 

I recently watched a movie entitled "Deepwater Horizon" in which an oil rig exploded and many people were unnecessarily killed because, in part, some people in authority decided to forego a require safety testing.  Then, when things started literally blowing up, another person in a supervisory role would not allow his colleague to implement shut down measures because he had not been give the "go- ahead" from his supervisor.  The only problem?  His supervisor was badly injured in another part of the vessel and was not able to quickly get to them to lead!  As an instructor in leadership, this movie had me on the edge of my seat identifying all of the internal problems that caused this disaster in Louisiana a few years ago.

So, my afternoon matinee with friends last week prompted me to give a few principles in dealing with rules in our business or organization and how to best apply them:

1.  If a rule is consistently causing an undesireable result, then the rule likely needs to be changed or eliminated.  It could be that a certain rule was good and necessary when it was first instituted, but is no longer relevant in the current operation of your company.

2.  In your process of making rules, be sure to legitimately allow for flexibility in their application so that people in authority can avoid unfair consequences.  It is important to note that when there is a diversion from the stated rule, that is not done haphazardly or capriciously, but rather based on a rationale that is fair and transparent to be recorded.

3.  If an organizational rule does not make sense or will cause extreme hardship in its application in a particular instance, consult with decision makers and stakeholders about departing from the rule in that instance.

4.  Again, do not break governmental or regulatory rules which are instituted for the legitimate purposes of the government, but be an advocate for change where the rules no longer make sense.  To do otherwise could jeopardize your organization and your job. 

5.  In drafting rules, make sure that they are (a) reasonable, (b) clear and understandable and (c) properly communicated.  This will help to ensure that they are fconsistenely ollowed to the benefit of all involved.  

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