Kill A Stupid Rule

Kill a Stupid Rule - Lisa Bodell

By Lisa Bodell

Ever wondered why you have to fill in monthly status reports that no one ever reads? Or whether it’s really necessary to have multiple sign-offs for simple projects? Like a suggestion box on steroids, ‘Kill a Stupid Rule’ is a rule-killing exercise that has the power to invigorate employees across a department – or the entire company.

Ask everyone to pair up and then kick off the meeting with this question: If you could kill or change all the stupid rules that get in the way of doing your work or better servicing your clients, what would they be?

Watch the sparks fly.

Even after 10 minutes, teams will likely beg for more time—not because they’re coming up empty, but because there are that many stupid rules in the organization. Don’t interrupt their flow! After all, how often do you see your people so engaged in an exercise? Do remind them, however, that while government regulations are not changeable rules, everything else is fair game.

When the pairs finish listing rules that drive them crazy, ask each person to write the rule he hates the most on a sticky note. Meanwhile, create a 2x2 grid on a whiteboard or flipchart. One axis should represent implementation (easy-to-difficult) and the other represents overall impact (low-to-high) of killing the rule. Instruct individuals to place their rule in the most fitting quadrant: easy-or-hard to kill? High-or-low impact?

As you start discussing the rules, pay attention to any that show up over and over – that’s a clear sign it needs to be re-evaluated. Also, look for rules that appear in the quadrant of easy-to-implement and high-impact. These indicate potential quick kills! The vast majority of companies I’ve worked with usually find that their most hated rules aren’t really “rules” or big institutional mandates at all. They’re typically minor, ongoing annoyances like certain reports or conference calls, reimbursement protocol, and layers of sign-offs.

From these “rules,” take a vote on which one should be killed. Then do it, right on the spot. Or do the next best thing: kill it for a few months and promise that if no one misses it, the change will be permanent. The room will be shocked and ecstatic.

Kill a Stupid Rule empowers employees and sends a signal that management is listening and committed to improvements. It energizes employees and frees up their time for projects that can actually grow your business. Not only will it help your employees think boldly and critically, it will steer your business away from the dangers of complexity, fueling your company towards achieving its innovation goals.

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