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Having just got off the phone to my Bank and feeling very stressed.  As a self-employed professional (abet through a fully owned company), I don’t fit into their rules very easily.  So I was trying to get them to accept that I am happy with my financial situation, that recent rules they have introduced (on the ‘recommendation’ of the regulatory body) shouldn’t apply to me and that as a fully functioning, responsible adult (in a legal sense only I can assure you) I don’t need protecting from myself. 

Obviously I failed – “only following the rules Mr Ellis” and it’s “for your own protection Mr Ellis”.  So now I have to send off a whole bunch of information and I’ve spent the afternoon looking at competitors.

I get rules.  Rules are designed to provide clarity, set expectations, help large groups of people to manage processes, set minimum levels of standards.  Good rules protect all parties.

But why does it feel like so many rules are only there to protect one party – in this case the bank?  Somewhere at some time someone got blamed for being irresponsible and rather than recognise that mistakes happen and circumstances change, a new rule was introduced.

How many times does this happen in organizations?  Someone has a good idea and so they decide to create a rule.  A good idea but for a variety of reasons – it’s not thought through, it’s a compromise, circumstances change – the rule stops employees thinking for themselves and for the customer.

And the customer becomes upset and leaves.

Why can’t employees say no? 

Why can’t the organization create a means (or a rule!) that allows employees to question daft rules?  Maybe for one morning once a month everyone has to say ‘why’ at least twice, or there’s a specific IT tool that allows anonymous feedback on ‘stupid’ rules.

Organizations – encouraging employees to be courageous, giving them the tools and the means to question ‘the way things are done around here’ makes good business sense.  At least if you want to stop customer dissatisfaction.