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What Happens When the Rules Cause Chaos?

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Policies and Procedures Management (151-slide PowerPoint presentation). Curated by McKinsey-trained Executives Unlocking Organizational Excellence: The Ultimate Policies and Procedures Management Business Toolkit Welcome to the gateway of organizational excellence! In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape, having robust policies and [read more]

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Editor’s Note: Jim Cucinotta is a very senior executive, with over 20+ years of experience in leading sales, marketing, and operations teams.  He is also an author on Flevy.  You can view his firm’s business training guides here.

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chaos_theoryAs a manager, you are governed by a set of rules, norms, and cultural standards that help guide your business decisions.  And for the vast majority of times, these standards help form the right way to handle a work situation.  The rules protect both the employee and the employer.

But what happens when the rules actually cause chaos?  Must you follow them to the letter?  Are you obligated to ignore them?  Will your superiors support you if you make the right decision, but it falls against the norms?

These types of decisions happen every day and many times you do not realize it.  How you deal with your employees’ attire, workplace interactions, and “free time” activities may all be in the gray area of your company’s published guidelines.  Your guidelines may not cover tweeting, posting, or shopping at work.  Or dress down days, telecommuting, and other “new” things in the workplace.

If you are a stickler for the rules, you may be running into a huge dilemma- how do I manage a situation without the safety of our corporate policies?  Even if you are a maverick, how do you manage the situation without some guidelines?  Failure to act will certainly cause issues, but how do you maneuver?

The answer is actually pretty easy:

  1. Involve your team (including HR and your supervisor).  For dress down days, discuss what people can wear when clients are coming to the office versus an inventory day.  Working from home is a great perk, but everyone needs to be available between normal work hours.  Posting your lunch may be an acceptable activity, tweeting your opinions about a co-worker, not so much.
  1. Create guidelines that are fair, consistent with your normal policies, and are steeped in common sense.  For instance, is it reasonable to wear running shorts to work?  If you work for Nike, maybe, IBM, not so much.
  1. Explain the basis behind your decisions, it will help your team when the next vague crisis takes place.  People crave consistency, explaining your decisions helps them understand your logic.

Managing situations inside of your company’s policies is hard, managing situations outside of them is even harder.  But by being inclusive, smart and transparent, you can help create policies that others will follow.

12-page PDF document
This is a handy guide for consultants and board directors on how to develop working operating policies for their organizations. Effective policies need to be simple, self correcting by the users, and at the same time, sufficiently comprehensive. If a simple set of procedures would do, then do not [read more]

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23-page PDF document
This document describes: (1) How to implement corporate policies, procedures and other management controls better (your hard controls) by using and improving the aspects of soft controls (such as tone at the top, understanding of the organization by the board, culture, [read more]

About Jim Cucinotta

Jim Cucinotta is a co-founder of Halo Health, a marketing company focused on Digital Patient Education. Jim has over 20 years experience in leading sales, marketing, and operations teams. He has managed thousands of employees over his career and has worked on over 1,000 products that have made it to the retail shelves. He is also an author on Flevy (view his documents here)

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