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Damn the Rules

November 3, 2011

So normally I go to conferences with other nice HR ladies where we enjoy swag, cocktails, and 7 AM sessions on the ADAAA, the FMLA and “The Horrors of Social Media.”  Yeah; stuff like that.  And we never have fun.  Really. (cough cough).

But I have gone to other professional/industry conferences.  I happen to be married to an IT dude so I’ve managed to tag along to an geek-fest IT conference or two.  Front row at the Goo Goo Dolls.  Livin’ the good life my friends.


Recently, Mr. S. attended an IT conference while I stayed home and kept the home fires burning.  I got regular updates about the food (delicious!), the swag (minimal) and the gorgeous conference venue.  But then I received a text message along the lines of “check this guy out…he’s speaking right now and he’s amazing.”  So I googled the dude and became entranced with his blog content.

Now granted, he hasn’t updated recently, but as far as I can tell the guy is like a living genius so I’m gonna cut him some slack for not sitting down and cranking out regular updates.  And as I read back through some of his stuff, I just fell in love with this one — “Hell with Rules.”

So sit back my friends and let me know if this doesn’t sound familiar:

Imagine telling your kid one day to quit throwing rocks at cars.  Only to realize the next day you have to tell them to quit throwing rocks at SUV’s.  Then the coming days, you realize you must also tell your kid not to throw rocks at trucks, fire engines, and ambulances.  Ummm … 4,172 rules later you must come up with new rules like “don’t throw cans of Dr. Pepper at trolley cars.”

How about: “Don’t throw things at other people’s stuff.”


Ah yes.  Sounds like many of our organizations.  “Did you see Trixie’s blouse?  A bit more boobage than we’re comfortable with – rewrite the dress-code policy!’  “Joe being 5 minutes late is causing major probs; we need to write a tougher attendance policy – with POINTS!”

As our new friend Jeff Jonas points out —

The notion that “principles outperform rules” probably applies to most, if not all, of the decisioning processes.  For example, I would prefer to see feature extraction, entity resolution, relevance detection, filtering, and insight publishing algorithms leverage principles over rules wherever possible.

If I can remove the stuff that’s all about algorithms and math and stuff…well… can we get it?  Damn the Rules!


** I thought about calling this post “First, Break all the Rules” but that was taken.  Drat the luck.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2011 12:54 pm

    Amen, Robin! Thanks for talking common sense!

  2. Tim Gardner permalink
    November 6, 2011 10:48 am

    I’ve long been a proponent of principle-based management. The real trick is that many of the principles need to be complementary – especially behavior management. A principle-based attendance or dress policy implies a willingness of employees/managers to confront people in violation, and employees who get that they need to conform to some degree more than they have. Most importantly, HR guidance that keeps people from doing something outside the law.
    Difficult, but worth it. It shapes the workforce in many positive ways.

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