Who owns that dumb corporate rule? No! Really? Why? Who made this rule up?

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.

I’d highly recommend you read Seth’s Blog: Put a name on it and  the Fast Company’s blog I mention above




0 thoughts on “Who owns that dumb corporate rule? No! Really? Why? Who made this rule up?”

  1. Susan Mazza says:

    I too have been writing about rules this week! There are two things I think are the crux of why we end up with “dumb” rules, especially in organizations.

    One is rules are often put in place to make a process efficient. Unfortunately when there is an exception – something not typical or anticipated by the rules – the people executing the process feel empowered only to enforce the rules rather than think. In fact, in customer service roles that is all they are empowered to do – enforce the rules, rather than serve their customers by meeting them in reality vs. trying to fit reality to the pretty picture laid out in the process.

    The other is when rules are put in place when what is really needed are strong principles and the leadership to hold people accountable for living true to those principles. You can’t legislate commitment, integrity or common sense.

  2. My biggest experience with corporations from the inside was that if I could think of a good reason for the rule, I would enforce it where my allotted powers allowed. Otherwise I’d forget about it unless pressure from management compelled me to follow it. However, a whole slew of dumb rules came down the pipes (like not leaning back at one’s own desk or resting your head on it) that eventually convinced me to leave – even though I had some top brass tell me that if I stuck around I’d have a bright future at the company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *