Rules and policies are good most of the time. There are legal, ethical, and moral reasons we need them. But when policies and procedures become a barrier to organizational growth, someone needs to step up and challenge them. When rules are allowed to go on without review, an organization can quickly move to a compliance mindset and begin to act on autopilot.
A great leader will yell STOP and begin to challenge the rules and even break a few.
Here are 3 rules that need to be broken:
1. We haven’t done it that way before.
If you want to kill innovation, creativity, and future growth, have a rule that causes you to live in the past. The problem with rules is that they work for the time they were written but nothing about time stands still! A rule written a year ago may need to be rewritten or deleted based on the realities of today. Organizations and markets move and change. They aren’t stagnant so your rules shouldn’t be either.
2. We set this up and that is the way it works.
This one needs a sledgehammer! Why? Who said? What were the circumstances at the time? Is it still working? What has changed? How can we do it differently? Great leaders will ask the questions to challenge assumptions about what worked in the past. One of the greatest risks for any organization is the success of the past. If it worked yesterday, we tend to build an altar around it with rules to preserve the success. Yesterday’s success may be what causes your doors to close.
3. We need to read the policies first.
I am not talking about legal policies here. We should know those and review them often. There should be a few policies that your organization strictly upholds, but only a few. If you have so many rules, policies and procedures that you have to look up rules to know how to make decisions, you are in major trouble. Reading policies cause you to keep you eyes down while the world is moving rapidly by you. Looking out is more important than looking in.
I have had the honor of working with leaders who are rule-breakers. They asked the hard questions that have allowed our organization to change, adapt, and innovate to meet the changing needs of the customers we serve. We have a few rules we hold firmly in place but we live by guidelines that are flexible and open to change.
What other rules do you think need to broken?
The religious leaders of Jesus time kept adding more and more rules. There were so many rules it was a heavy burden to people. Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, challenged the man-made rules and even broke a few. He summed up the law in two commands:
He (Jesus) said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40