It’s Just a Suggestion

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

You may have had this conversation with your kids.  This morning I was told that the speed limit was just a suggestion.  That peaked my interest.  So I said that the speed limit was the law that stated the maximum or minimum speed at which a motor vehicle may operate on public roads, and was not a suggestion. That resulted in a discussion of what a law was. Using my best corporate voice, I said a law is a binding custom or practice of a community:  a rule of conduct or action formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.  You can imagine how that was received. OK, so far.  They then asked, what is a suggestion?  Well in its literal sense, this word signifies to inform.  So that still does not preclude following the speed limit. So far, we have established that the speed limit is binding, and you have been informed of it.  Well, not really.  I may have established that, but I am not sure my audience bought it.

Ever wonder why they work so hard to justify not following a rule?  What kind of rules do you have in your business that may not be followed?  Do you have employees working hard to justify why they should not follow that rule or that process?  I visited a law firm and was told by a paralegal that this Firm was different.  When I asked what that meant, I was told that they were so unique that an arbitrary rule could not apply to them.   The particular offensive rule was that the settlement was to be put in a red folder so that the attorney could spot it when the client arrived. I was not sure why their uniqueness canceled this rule.

I found many examples like this. I created a new rule just for fun; all rules would be followed until such time that they were replaced, updated or canceled. In hindsight, I am not sure why I thought this rule would be received any differently than the existing rules. The next day was a little stressful as I attempted to enforce all documented rules. Once they figured out that there were no exceptions, things settled down.   Eventually, some of the rules and processes were improved and updated. Some were even removed.

What was missing, when I started this journey, was consistent enforcement of the processes and policies of the business? Once the staff determined that the rules were real, they followed them.  As the processes and rules were used more often, they were improved, kind of a win – win.

Now I do not know what to tell you about your kids.  First of all, my kid was 38 years old. I do know a little about business processes and just having the process or policy documented is not enough.  Your staff wants to see consistent enforcement of the rules before they will trust them.