Hey, I followed the rules! What more do you expect from me?

Corporate rules and rigidness

This post is from the “attic”. I wrote it a few years ago.

When I was speaking to employees of a large corporate I was doing business with a few years go, they talk about the company as an external thing. As if they cannot control it by themselves. There is a certain feeling of helplessness on a beast they cannot tame. I think this a symptom of a corporate going too corporate. It boils down to control. Every team, department, and leader inside a corporate is fighting for control. Creating control is about being essential and necessary. Without these, a part of the organization could become redundant or less important. But also makes the corporate rigid and bloated.

So how does a corporate get there? In essence, values are important in any organization. Values apply to how do your work and interact with others. To contain and monitor behavior which is not in line with values, rules are enforced. And it is here where the problem lies.

Rules are invented to streamline communication, set expectations and boundaries. But they do not leave room for a lot of interpretation. It is a careful balance. It is similar to the constitution and laws of a country. If laws are applied everywhere and all the time, society becomes unlivable. Some rules and values are more important than others. The important ones are applied more rigorously than lesser ones. “Though shall not kill” is an important one, but at the same time does not apply to soldiers at war. Laws are often open for interpretation. And this key to a functioning society.

In corporations, the organization has often fewer options for appeal while the rules are very specific. This makes them rigid.

How can a company be better organized while still keeping a method to control?

It is about the freedom to act to what is best for the organization. It is best to focus on values first. Values can be broad or very specific. Rules should only apply to procedures. For instance, every new customer is credit checked before delivery. A certain type of flexibility on any procedure or rule is fine as long as a person takes responsibility. So if a salesperson wants a delivery before the credit check that the salesperson is responsible if it goes wrong. That should always be clear.

An organization littered with rules tends to make people feel responsible about their actions. “Hey, I followed the rules! What more do you expect from me?”.

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