One blog from Seth Godin stands out for me as being a diamond amongst gems. It was written in 2009 and in it he asks the question: who owns that rule? Seth says: “Every rule needs to be associated with one and only one person who is willing to stand up for it and explain it (to your people and to the public).” This is so true and if leaders were bold enough to go through their organisation questioning the rules, mindless and faceless bureaucracy would disappear. I was reminded about Seth’s blog when reading the Fast Company blog ’The 4 Dumbest Rules That Will Kill Your Company’s Culture’ By Roberta Matuson. Roberta hits the nail on the head – dumb rules kill ingenuity, passion, innovation and a host of powerful values in the name of conformity and rules for the sake of rules.
The next time you come across a colleague or a company who says something can’t be done because of a rule, ask them to explain why the rule exists, and then ask who owns that rule. I’ve tried this a few times and it always results in a blank, dumbfounded look. The reality is no one questions the rules we have around us. Well, that’s not true. Innovative companies challenge the conventional wisdom – the rules of the game – and breakthroughs occur when these rules are stripped bare and found to be superfluous.
Challenge your rules. Some rules are good rules and necessary rules, but many rules hold organisations and talented people back. As a leader go on a crusade to eliminate the unnecessary rules in your business; remove the shackles that stifle creativity and passionate energy.
Put a name and a face on every rule – make rules accountable.