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Break the Rules

Updated: Apr 3

If you are a maverick, non-conformist or if the teenager in you is still active, you get a big kick out of breaking the rules. It sends your adrenaline sky high, you feel pumped up and let a scream out.


What is it about the rules that it gives so much of that rush when you break it.

Rules chain you down
Rules are sometimes bureaucratic
They probably slow down decision making
There are rule to change the rules
The ones framing the rules are usually far removed from the ones following them

As if existing rules were not enough, in today’s world of remote working, there are additional “bossware” that snoops on your activities, ensuring you logged in atleast 8 hours a day, monitors idle time, etc. Another set of “bossware” are excel sheets asking for task list and time spent on a daily basis. If you are non-compliant to “bossware”, it would reflect on your performance feedback!!

Why are rules put in at all?

  • For the management, it removes uncertainty and gives predictability

  • Product quality is assured if the process is followed without deviation

  • Rules are intended to give a consistent experience to customers

The reality of course is quite different. Over time, the management focus shifts to compliance to the process and rules rather than the intent. Non-compliance to the process is seen as bad practices without understanding whether it helps drive results or not. Many companies that follow the process with a myopic view tend to take many penny wise, pound foolish decisions. And they are absolutely OK with it.

Here’s an experience from a large Fortune 500 organization. A team was relocating from one facility to another within the same business district. There were several artefacts such as wide screen TVs used to display dashboards that had to be shifted. The team applied an agile mindset and proposed that they will take the responsibility to shift all equipment themselves. But corporate policies proscribed them from doing that. So instead of the teams spending “zero cost” in doing the relocation themselves, an empaneled vendor did the move costing each display unit ₹5,000/-. And this was at the height of a cost cutting drive within the company. So, compliance to process won that day, but did the company really win from a business standpoint. Hmmm…


What can companies do?

Its important for companies to adopt an Agile Mindset and start focusing on results rather than compliance to rules and processes
  • Process is to be respected, but when business circumstances demand common sense it should be flexible. For this, teams and managers should be empowered rather than centralising decisions

  • Rules should be reviewed periodically to see if they have outlived their purpose.

  • Teams closest to the clients should recommend what rules are relevant rather than those far away from customers, even if they are in “Head Quarters”

Above all, the impact of not having rules needs to be evaluated. In 99% of the cases, nothing will really break if the rules are just removed and people are trusted to make informed decisions that is right for the company. Why else are business leaders at a unit level measured on revenue and gross margin?


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