Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rules and Their Modifications

Upper management and the Human Resources Department may make the rules, but the people in the field make the modifications.

A great deal can happen to a rule during its travels to the field. Once it arrives there, it will undergo various changes produced by resistance and practicality. After a while, the once-pristine rule may resemble an old car that has gone through a chop shop. Observers will scratch their heads while trying to guess the original design.

A "report" becomes one or two sentences or perhaps an off-hand remark over the last cup of coffee in a break room. A "review" refers to that time the boss drove through the parking lot near the outfit to be reviewed. "Will" becomes "if convenient." "Never" means "in most cases."

These changes are not always bad. They are the organization's way of operating in spite of the rules. The fact that so much modification was deemed necessary should cause the rule-drafters to consider if they took sufficient notice of reality.

A good exercise for any supervisor is to learn which rules are taken seriously, which ones are worked around, and which ones are ignored entirely. That information can tell you a great deal about an organization.

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