Create Eagles – Not Ducks When it Comes to Policies

Guest
post from S. Chris Edmonds:
Most
stupid policies don’t start out that way. They are intended to “protect &
serve” but can evolve into something not good.
There’s
a story by Wayne Dyer about eagles and ducks. In organizations, ducks are those
employees who are bogged down in the stupid policies, i.e. rules that no longer
serve. They are helpless to change things that don’t work. Ducks quack, “That’s
not my job,” and “I’m sorry, that’s our policy,” and “My computer won’t let me
remove that charge from your account,” etc.
Eagles
soar above the crowd, doing great things for customers and the company. They
don’t get mired in policies that don’t work; they maneuver around stupid
policies to serve the customer and the company fairly.
Years
ago I discovered something about organizations and policy creation.
The
client was a municipal government – city, not county or state. I was teaching a
leadership program and participants were very pleased with the models, tools,
and techniques the program presented.
At
one point during the afternoon, one woman – let’s call her Joyce – shared her frustrations
with a woman in her office (who was not attending my program). Joyce explained
that this peer of hers had a unique role which placed her in a “gatekeeper”
position.
This
peer – let’s call her Roberta – touched key projects at key times, moving
paperwork to decision-makers for approval, scheduling meetings of
decision-makers with project staff, etc. Roberta tended to move more quickly on
activities that her “work friends” would benefit from, and she allowed other
activities to sit, untouched –  sometimes
for days.
Roberta’s
inconsistencies caused much consternation to Joyce and others in the room. I
was about to inquire about how the group has tried to address these issues when
Joyce stated, “And Roberta is ‘Employee of the Month’ this month!”
I’m
certain that my shock was quite apparent; I felt like my jaw dropped to the
floor. I sputtered a moment then asked Joyce, “Why would you select Roberta as
‘Employee of the Month’?” Joyce looked at me and calmly said, “It was her
turn.”
The
class and I spoke awhile about stupid policies; this “EOTM” policy certainly
qualified. Employee of the Month programs typically do not celebrate great
contributions or performance; they celebrate moderate contribution and (mostly)
tenure. Why would an organization want just ONE Employee of the Month? Wouldn’t
you want dozens of terrific employees, all recognized for doing great things
every day for customers and for the company?
This
particular practice is not unique to municipalities. We’ve all experienced this
“good intentions gone wrong” policy issue in all kinds of organizations, all
across the globe.
Impact
of Stupid Policies
Every
team member knows which policies are stupid; they talk about them with their
peers all the time! Customers know – and some are quick to point out how dumb
those policies are. Stupid policies:
     demoralize staff
     Alienate customers
     Cost your company hard dollar
profits
How
can you reduce the negative impact and undesirable consequences of stupid
policies?
1.
Spend an hour or two each week, seeking input from team members about policies
that inhibit great performance.
2.
As you discover stupid policies, eliminate them – or, at least, refine them so
they have NO negative impact on great performance.
One
company created a “stupid policies” group whose sole purpose was to identify
and eliminate policies that inhibit good decisions, full presence, and full
commitment. They celebrated their first year’s successes – cutting a policy
manual down from 3″ to 30 pages – with a huge dinner party!
S. Chris Edmonds is
a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year
career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in
1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard
Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including
Amazon best sellers The
Culture Engine
 and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn
from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com.
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